Poem of the Month

Tar Barrels of Allendale by Clare Roberts

Half a life     of heaving the heat,

fifty years       flaming, forceful

in the memories of men      dressed as monks,

jesters and knights      for the new year’s knees-up.

Born and bred         to the task of bearing

barrels of burning       hot tar, boughs

and paraffin; a procession    picks its path,

a crowd of cheering,          costumed characters.

Forty-five men    (no female’s feat)

balance fire         that flickers, and flips

torchlight to shadow,         tinder alight teases,

floating on smoke,     flitting out fear.

Glow ignites gleams,     glistens the threads

on green-tassled gowns      beneath galloping dazzle,

spirits of saffron   spark fires on brass,

band beating time              berating night’s blackness.

Lamps lean         lighting the Yuletide

the Kingshead hails            a heaven or hell,

revellers reel       drunk with reality,

smelting the senses            for old time’s sake.

Stone walls shy      away from the sky

retiring rabbits       too frightened to run.

shadows leap sideways           then crouch and sulk

as the midnight bonfire         bursts the blackness.

Smoke rises slow     over sooty eyes

spirits gambol      groups gather,

surge the bonfire       ceremony, celebration

grab the gauntlet      in the guise of new year.

Sear away sadness,            usher the senses

to embrace new existence,       an exuberant eve,

festival of fire     first footing the gladness

igniting the North              lying numb in the frost.