The Black Gate

Pons Aelius City Limits



Adept in syntaxes of stronghold

synonyms for self-interest, we understand

solid geometries of the portcullis:

you have your side, we have ours.


One plane of the gated barbican

may have invited praise for oaks felled

riveted to steel; the other for weaponry

several centuries off.


But how ridiculous these macka walls

like Creatined arms of Glaswegian stags

who one hour earlier passed

on a Virgin Pendolino over Forth Street


and are now in the Victoria Comet

chugging vodka Red Bulls

look to those who’ve seen the city at peace.

But then, why leave vestigial fortresses


other than to honour the gore-stotted

chares from where our ancestors

flung, or else were clarted in, pitch and tar

and where some still crave a scrap?


Imagining the diorama escalated:

Castle Garth pounding with flame

Side engulfed, some subtle twists in history’s

Rubik’s Cube aligned differently


and I might feel the urgency of this place.

As-is, I’m simply ten miles ago, twenty years

away, another black gate marking

boundaries of my bairnhood play


on Armstrong Avenue, South Shields

where a German Shepherd

with a Himmler-esque name bore

fang and snarl as its ancestors were bred to:


manifesting a scene in which we devise schemes

to mark and guard colonies whose conquest

and record by bayonet-blow, land registry

longship or Royal Charter


nearly always fade to territories

of abstraction beyond which it becomes

impossible to discern where sprung blood

became curdled ink.



Jake Campbell is a PhD student at Newcastle University, where he is writing his first full-length collection and an accompanying study of North-East poets. His pamphlets are The Coast Will Wait Behind You (Art Editions North, 2015) and Definitions of Distance (Red Squirrel Press, 2012) He lives in South Tyneside.