'The Tyrant, The Galway Girl, The Noreen Fury'
Written whilst on residency at Barrow-in-Furness (admittedly only ten minutes down the road from where I live however having the full week to walk around the town, without a predetermined task or company, enabled the creation of this work). Barrow is a town of contradictions; situated on the Furness Peninsula, its incredibly remote position also contributes to its draw, the largest employers are BAE and the NHS, it is heavily industrialised though also home to an incredible natural landscape.
'The Tyrant' was shown at Art Gene, Barrow, in 2018, the Vallum Gallery, Institute of Fine Art and in the group exhibition 'The words that precede my mouth' in 2019. Each time it has been shown as a different edition, including as an installation and an embossed hand-bound book with a folio.
Maybe you could call them castles.
Only this time you can’t see the soldiers.
‘To see and to be seen’
but when you saw too much
that’s when the problems start.
And they rush out
all the kings horses and all the
kings henchmen arrive in style.
The town spans out
like a perfect grid and as I
wander aimlessly (looking purposeful)
I get used to the repeated terraces
and despite feeling at home
-terraces usually feel safe-
I worry; if you see too much
who’s the king here?
where are his men?
I don’t see enough of the town though;
it moves on too fast
and before I realise I’m pursued
-at least it feels that way-
and as each street rises away
the castle appears at the end.
Again and again and over and over.
No matter where I turn,
left by the chippy then right by the church
across a round-a-bout about a hundred times
…it’s always at the end of the road.
There must be more than one.
But soon I am drawn to them, I want to see
-but not too much, not too much-
I want to know the vastness of their
corrugated bellies, their cream caverns
I want to know what grows inside them
and what they’ll birth to an already full world?
Maybe the castles are mountains…
then a glimpse of a childhood fantasy
of cities under the hills;
something so unmoving from the outside
teaming with life and with thought.
Construction but concealed.
So silent, in suspense, in potential
What will it birth to an already full world?
It birth’s a sleek body
dark grey as wet concrete
I almost step on it as
I follow the desire path
round the edge of the estates
hemmed in by the grasslands
and mud flats of the bay.
I almost step on it and ask
what are you doing here?
You should be in the water
but it lies curled at my feet
-at first I thought it was seaweed-
and as I turn it over with my foot
it lies with it’s belly exposed to the cold sun;
white-grey scales coming loose
mouth full of grit, of sand, of
heavy mud that climbs out of the sea.
It makes me feel sick, or guilty,
and as I walk on I only manage ten strides
before halting, before turning back.
I couldn’t leave it, not like that.
It looked too vulnerable
I turn it back onto it’s stomach,
dark grey to air once more
and leave it curled on the stooping reeds
that yellow the edges of the path
I don’t think I dreamt it
It didn’t mean anything
It didn’t mean anything.
It's an odd thing to dream about...
Still, it's odd. What do you think it meant?
It usually does...
Everything begins to yellow
the reeds, the leaves on damp trees
hanging low over a moss covered courtyard
and as you enter silence descends.
Cars still hurtle past
on a road outside but here
their roar barely matters, barely registers.
In the centre of the courtyard Mary stands
resplendent in red stone and roses
that circle the base,
a few holding form in the cold air
pale yellows, pinks, one a glorious ruby.
She cradles her son,
with a softness the pink stone shouldn’t have.
Docile. It implies a dog
that has the potential to turn,
in my head at least.
The damp morning led on
to the sea, dark sand, heavy air
thick with salt and seaweed.
Docile water, lazily lapping at the shore?
But it’s more, it’s more
because as I was walking
it was beside me immediately
it drew in as my back was turned
like a game, cat and mouse
and I was trapped between slippery
rock pools and the sea,
ever closer and ever faster.
Only when I was back on the bank
did I look back, my heart raced.
It was the sublime;
beauty and danger dancing together
I talked with someone about it during the day,
they pulled two people out of the water.
I’m not sure-
I got upset once, hearing it described
as the ‘angry Northern Sea’.
It isn’t angry; it rose and fell as it always does.
It isn’t to blame in that story.
I fear it out of respect,
but it in itself isn’t to be feared.
It is the thing that drives us into it
that should be feared.
Do you think it was because of the Morecambe Bay tragedy?
That's probably why it was on your mind then.
I sat for hours it seemed
moving pebbles between my fingers
and each one I picked up
was different to the last,
all except one.
I kept picking up this tiny stone
that was tunnelled through,
it was more air than stone.
I have no idea how it didn’t fall apart.
It just kept appearing though,
I didn’t want the repetition anymore.
So I threw it far out, into the grey water
and still it appeared in my hand.
Still it came back.
I decided to keep it,
like a small child gathering treasure.
I couldn’t find it later when I emptied my pockets.