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.