During the summer Chester Library held a series of poetry workshops with Manchester based performance poet Dominic Berry. Archive material from the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies was used to inspire our potential poets. A few of the poems have been included here, we hope that you enjoy them. Some were inspired by the the wartime experiences of Cheshire rifleman Sydney Upton, others by the fundraising efforts of those left behind, and the album of a First Word War nurse known only as ‘Self’.
Earth to Spade by Sharon Forsdyke
Earth to spade, spade to earth, no earth to dust.
This earth, full feeling through hands,
Not like that clogged, matted other earth.
No bone-meal compost here.
Forgive and forget?
Not will, not can
How can when on a half-way return to a feather welcome
Little proud that I did not die.
Larkspur for Tom, foxglove for Albert
Geraniums for Charlie, snapdragon for Jimmy.
Dhalias for the Belgian farmer
Roses for them all.
No poppies here.
None of their blood soaking earth
This will be a coming home epitaph.
My Uptonian garden.
The German food is filthy by Sharon Forsdyke
The German food is filthy.
I thank you for these funds.
Let’s show our captive prisoners
we’re thinking of our sons.
First ticket’s number 7,
a cake of Scotch short bread
donated by our Mrs Drake.
Is that your ticket, Fred?
Now, you make sure you share it all
with your lovely wife.
Ticket 2, this pocket corkscrew
may well save your life!
Mr Dougless wins it!
His son is in the Somme.
His men would welcome this next prize
from our dental surgeon.
Ticket number 125, (one – two – five)
that goes to Mrs Grish.
Next is number 133, (one – three – three)
a plate of parkgate fish.
I love an honest raffle.
You know everything’s been given.
You can’t object to a few pence….
Our boys will think they are in heaven.
The Dunce by Elizabeth Bentley
In school room corner I sit
Dunce’s hat on head
Looking at fields
Wishing I was there.
Teacher frowns at me
Fidgetting sun browned fingers,
Flexing young muscled arms
Used to threshing and sowing.
Arm work, not brain work my strength.
My eyes read clouds, not books,
Sense rain and frost.
With Father I am doing my bit
Feeding the nation.
Look at Tom Williams – posh boy
All he can do is write about it.
He will be in print one day
In a hundred years time.
But no one will know this dunce’s name
The unknown soldier of the soil.
SELF by Elizabeth Bentley
Stinging, watering, stinging.
All must be done for me .
A starched figure
A dark kind shadow.
Spoonfuls of food.
Sips of water/
She turns me, turns again.
As medicine and body loses fight,
Hearing and touch remain.
The comfort of a hand.
A voice with warmth and care
Love for a stranger.
Kindness to the end.
The Garden by Sandy Boyne
Scent of flowers, nostrils tingle, rose thorns prick.
Drops of blood, too much shed, can’t forget.
Lupins rise up, peppery scent, memories of poplars.
Dark times rear up.
Dig,dig to create beauty, not trenches to hide,
Worms weave in,out,smoothly glide nourishing the earth.
Cycle of life unstopping.
Happiness comes,then fade,dies,lies dormant till spring.
Casualty of War by Sandy Boyne
My leg is broken.
A young nurse takes me to have it set
Wheels me in a chair through the gardens.
We admire the beauty of flowers,distant mountains,purple and green
I absorb his comforting presence
Away from the cruelties of war.
My leg is heavy in its caste
He fetches tea,hot steaming tea
It tastes like nectar
Kindness in a cup
He helps me with tasks,talking,laughing with other patients
Drawn together by war
Helping each other out
Ready in time of need.