Poems by Bob Beagrie
Alfred in Guthrum’s Tent
After Daniel Maclise’s 19th Century masterpiece
drag me through the frame
into a ripe imagined past
a minstrel’s fingers
pluck bittersweet notes from strings
to charm enemy ears
When the revellers
pass out will he draw a knife
to make their throats grin
gargle red ribbons
over grass underneath the gaze
of the winged god of the woods;
a key in each hand
I wonder what locks
they fit; which door, box or chest
each one keeps secure -
what lies within
This minstrel is the Marsh King
glancing over his shoulder
at unknown Englands
a divided land
to fertilise the earth
drench the sky
But it’s the thunder in his face,
vengeance smouldering in his brain
that spooks me
standing in this gallery
we are crucified
all of us, on the crossroads
Something skew-wiff approaches from stage left.
Pass me our eye Sister, so that I may spy.
Is it a man? He may fall for me, for one of us!
Take us from this grey world into a realm of love.
Tch, that time has long gone, Sister, if ever it was here
faded by the time it flourished, my dear.
What are we, Sister? I have forgotten.
They called us Widows of Perpetual War
but I don’t recall any husband in my past’s shards.
And what have we become?
We are rags and bones my Sister, figurine in exile.
We are rocks, sand and surf. We are vermin
scratching at the threshold of order, sleeping
within the hollow of a blown tern egg, watching
menopausal waves swell beyond the scar;
two whole months of blood.
Where are we, Sis? Kiss me, pass over our slug
tongue so I may taste the tremors of this place
where Orpheus sings sad songs of loss, where we squat
in the charnel reek of the deep cave mouth.
Hand me our snaggle tooth, Sister, so I can chew
this gristle, strip off fat, scrape skin and sinew.
Sister, sisters, what shall we become?
Gymnasts, my sweet, with perfect balance, tight-roping
the borders with the grace of cirrus uncinus.
We shall blow pink bubbles with chewing gum –
mine shall be the biggest. No, mine will be the best!
What must we do, my Sisters?
Draw old pacts in damp sand with picked clean bones.
Scrape the silver from the moon. Pass me the eye, Sister,
the one we stole from a stranger. We must decipher
the monologic view, refract it’s gaze in water prisms;
weave wyrd threads between ante-life and after-life,
skate around the frozen sea, wait for the blood to stop.
About the poet
Bob Beagrie is a poet, playwright and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Teesside University. He has performed at numerous festivals and venues nationally and internationally, including The Royal Festival Hall – South Bank Centre, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Crossing Borders Festival – Amsterdam, Kiasma Museum of Modern Art – Helsinki, Down By The Laiturri Festival – Turku, The Haganum Festival – Den Haag, The Dylan Thomas Centre – Swansea, The Poet's Café – Silvers, Portugal and The Poetry Café London. He has received commissions from Arts Council England, The Hydrogen Jukebox Cabaret of The Spoken Word, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and Hartlepool Borough Council, The Laing Gallery Newcastle and Helsinki Refugee Centre. As well as collaborating with musicians he has also worked closely with visual artists on public artworks and with theatre company Three Over Eden.
He is co–director of Ek Zuban Press, a independent publishing house which produces Kenaz magazine, and bi-lingual poetry editions drawn from international exchange projects. Ek zuban also delivers creative writing, reminiscence and local history projects with community and education groups across the North of England, often culminating in performances and/or publication of participants work.
Ek Zuban also runs the regular Middlesbrough-based live literature event, The Electric Kool-Aid Cabaret of the Spoken Word.