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.