Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Brownfield Research Centre - The Brownfield Anthology - Simon Corble

As the deinstallation of this part of our Brownfield Research Centre project begins, we have the words of Simon Corble, our commissioned creative writer running through our heads. Simon created a Brownfield anthology and the full set of site specific poems and thoughts is here... plus a special bonus reward after Simon's final poem.

The Brownfield Collection 
A response in poetry to the brownfield sites around Stoke-on-Trent, by Simon Corble. June 2018.

Open Access
Despite the tens of thousands spent
         on keeping people out,
it’s easy to gain access and
         going in there’s no
         “Exhibit One”.  No order –
free as bees to wander
         wander round these
aisles of free-for-all
         these open galleries,
all the work anonymous or
         even accidental…

Proper walls in very short supply
         hold works in
    vibrant orange, yellow –
golden swirls as rich as flowers
         unvisited ‘cept by passing bees
and me, today; under-privileged
glimpse of
         creations, childish-looking
         installations, existential
                  CAMUS on a wall
Who’s the strangest of them all?

The isolated sparring glove lying
where it fell; a pair of dark grey
boxer shorts, screwed up,
wrung out, slapped on the asphalt,
bone-dry now in summer heat; a
scrunch of tortured creases crying out
for justice or a damn good iron.
“Oh, you want it like that do you?”
         Suddenly it’s Peter’s Empty Space;
         darling ghosts of past performances,
         jumbles of props and cast-off
         costume scraps – it all makes
                  zero sense –
         a feeble victim’s bomber jacket
         captured by the brambles; the
         white surrender handkerchief waved
         head height from a tree
         turns out to be a plastic bag…

         A plot full of deceptions – the
         blanket weighted down by four
         half-burnt bricks
         hides naught
         but its own mystery.


Demolished Dog-Track Stadium Anthem

Squares of lino lying scattered,
                  Tell me – was it vinyl flooring then?
Two-tone squares, grey,
                  dark grey, scattered like a
pack of cards, discarded;
                  a discarded deck.

A vinyl disc, a 45, is wedged between
                  two hollow bricks,
upright, it’s remembering
                  a juke box, flashy,
                  retro, even then,
weightless, waiting, weighted down,
                  waiting for a coin to drop,
                  machine to lay it, play it flat…
The label in the middle’s gone;
                  selection very tricky…
I hope for Ghost Town, by The Specials;
The Selector – Too Much Pressure;
Elvis – Hound Dog – better still…
The shadow of a plant stem, dead
                  plays armature and stylus,
                  moving as the sun records
                  a silent tribute song; tracing
the untraceable dog-track anthem in a
                  groovy, kind-of love.
Daily he reaches that
                  central, circled space:
still point of the turning wheel.
                  Stuck; but never sticks;
                  a greyhound sticks to the track…

                  He never caught that rabbit yet.
                  He ain’t no friend of time.


Bit Like

In any case that 45 rpm
has a semi-circular
chunk bit
bit like
in Alice the Mad
Hatter’s teacup rim

Vinyl or Lino?

Vinyl or Lino?
I’ll be floored
if I know.

I screed, you screed
we all got scared
and disagreed.


A Noise

A lady on a tannoy
         annoys across the land
Would so-and-so from such-and-such…
         the painted bricks do not respond
         the dumped child’s cot
         refuses to be rocked
         the bee heads for the neighbour flower
         reckless in delight
         the roses laugh, they’re dog roses…
And it’s nothing to do with me.



blackbirds buds dunnocks butterflies bugs
and bees Bombus abounding
crowding the flowering rambling bramble
Bombus hypnorum bumbles about
a lemon-coloured hybrid rose
new to science
                           hairy hypnorum
humming the spell of sleep a
cinamon ginger innocent jinx
in a trance of a dance over wind
bobbing shrub shaded slabs and sunk
in cement the paint flaking
stakes of steel valiant stanchions
withstood a bulldozer's blundering snout
stout in defiance
                           when all else falls
Staffordshire brick crumbles and
fails tumbles and walls collapse
in waves beneath blows and roll in
the reckless wrecking ball ruthless
result of balls up or cock up or
cooked up conspiracy who knows
who badly thought through what not
thought through at all through
no fault of their own decisions
decisions decisionz the bees
buzz on oblivious
now that's what I call



under Blair
under Prescott
under that
under this
the latest the greatest
the rabbit from a hat
now turned into a fatalist
he’s lost inside a waiting list
the soul destroying weightiest
                  wave of collapsing
         hopes for a new start
         fresh start
         sure start
but something forced these bars apart
something makes the eyes smart



The roses here have
hybridised from
those suburban gardens
looking on, looking over
ineffectual palisades.
Another world in parallel:
a lady, balanced like
a Libra walks weighing
her two shopping bags,
she’s safely on a pavement
past the barricades
no head is turned;
another in a sari and her friend
push pushchairs up a hill,
perhaps towards a park up there?
And one who loads the boot of a car
with heaven knows what stuff
looks up to the sun,
looks not quite very miserable…
No one looks in.
We ARE invisible.



Brambles snake exploring stems
across the concrete screed;
springs uncoiled, their smiling cups
         of primitive flowers
held up to the Pagan sun
         for blessing’s warmth.

The concrete mottled, thinly moss’d,
         patchy like savannah seen
         from space.

A swinging sixties floorer left
         his swirling mark upon this
         vinyl tile’s reverse; whorling
like a fingerprint; thumbprint
         from an innocent giant.

We don’t know what this vinyl floor was for.
We don’t know what this plastic pipe
                                    was for;
         nor the wiring curled up with it
         like they belonged together,
         electricity and water.  Alright,
         it seems, in steam irons,
         kettles and in ruins.
         “In case of fault call
Southern Electricity”

But nothing feels at fault,
         not here, not standing here;
the randomness of everything
         run riot.


Fault Line

Who would I get, I wonder,
         if I called that number now?
Perhaps, like Kafka’s nightmare trial
that number is still waiting – never
         has been dialled – was not meant
for this moment, but one always
         to come.   An ever-aging
office clerk, stares at a Bakelite phone;
knowing nothing of their hopeless fate,
         but sure the caller is alone.



That lone brick, fractured by the frost,
baked and shattered by the summer sun
to fragments, insignificant; a pile
of terracotta dust, waiting for
the breath of wind.  Grains of pollen in
the giant hands of daisies, shaken by
the fumblings of bees; the flakes of paint,
yellow, breaking, falling down; the odd
dead leaf falling, falling down.  No.
No, you cannot, may not choose, you
the after-comer, you who never saw
a dog race round the track.  You stand
there, pondering.  You love that shattered brick
the best.  You want to take it home, somehow,
where it would find no place.  And anyway
it’s un-transportable.  You let it be.



            But, no one is at fault, you see?
         Not standing here with the
         randomness of everything
         reigning all around.

Here’s a new approach:
Hold your latest scheme and
come and stand right here with me
to just take in this scene:

There’s ironies in the ironwork,
bent so the eye can see
the “extra” crowning Tesco
between the lethal palings…one, two

         Someone will know how many,
         has the calculation, not
         now in some office drawer,
         but on some whirring hard drive
         somewhere neat and,
         were you so inclined,
         you too could calculate
         the percentage it took
         from your council tax
         to keep this gypsy-free.

“Freedom of Information”
         I believe.
         You’re welcome.


Dead Centre

At the centre of the site
a child has made a simple wall
from bricks, in good supply and
for a touch of wonder
a window, or unlikely door,
is a sheet of circuit board
ripped from a computer.

It comes complete with ports,
soldered elements, all set
in a green, translucent base.
Some city futuristic,
future-proof because
it’s safe in that imagination.


Garden Escapes

Sweet Joe Pye hopped over the wall,
Sweet Joe Pye went crazy.
Bud Leia shot up far too tall
Now butterflies are lazy.



I’ve seen defences like this
against invading tanks
from World War Two
sticking up from pebble beaches
along the North Sea Coast.
Some of these flowers thrive there, also,
where their names earn some respect
in their natural habitat.


True Nature

Brick, brick, brick upon brick;
brick-built, bricked-in…
         clay brick.
A brick’s no more than
         baked mud.  Just like

that mud we wode across
         on that Staffordshire farm
         not five miles from here,
ankle-deep, fifty-fifty cow muck,
watched across a barbed-wire fence
by cattle, curiously, the culprits
         and the farmer: “The path
         runs by the hedge!”
         “Yeah, thanks!”

His land, clean above that stinking yard
         is pure, terracotta clay.
         Looking down, boots catching,
         sticky with it:
If I farmed this I’d kneel right down,
right here and start from the very beginning;
         make me a cup of clay.


“The path runs by the hedge!”

His firm voice
half-angry shout
the while we wobbled
on hasty rugs
of plywood boards
some cow had chewed
thrown down to bridge
the heaving swamp
of mud and muck
that day everyone
and I mean we three
         everybody went surfin’
         surfin’ ST12.


So Much for Granted

If this were in the third world,
         the heart of a third world city,
all this would be a city in itself,
that brick wall much prized
complete with swirling, uber-trendy mural,
the firmest wall of someone’s simple home;
a palace by the standards of
a deplorable place.
Authorities would bulldoze
        the people come again;
another wave of nature
taking hold
take possession
taking back control.
But, lawless in this law-abiding,
         lean, but pleasant,
         strangely pleasant land,
         I walk, I loiter here



I might at least have been mugged by now,
or questioned by police,
or trailed by two minders,
detained without release.
Instead, I’ve sent my escorts home
confident, okay;
not sure it’s even trespass
to stumble about this way.
It’s not that no-one bothers here;
no-one even sees me.
         That voice again, the tannoy
         calling for Mr. Beasely…



And what, in holy innocence,
did they want here with these dolls?
Scattered, not-so tattered, in fact
perfectly unbattered children’s things?

One dressed as if for first communion
lies thrown, or fallen; a tiny hand
clutching at a thorn.  And there,
a rolling, severed baby head is
smiling sideways at a lump of brick.

Another baby’s had its cotton innards
ripped inside-out – by birds;
I really, really hope it’s birds.
Its blue eyes shine up to the stars.

            A pillow for a baby doll
         nestles, quite suggestively
         up to a packet, emptied of its fags.
         It’s all discarded merchandise:
         The one adorned with fairy,
                           namely Annabelle,
         And one with graphic, photo-
         graphic portrayal of an open wound,
         following surgery to remove a lung.
         In both, pink features heavily.
         The shadow from the pillow’s logoed tab
         curls coffin-lidded over stark works on
         black, uncompromising packaging:
                           “DUTY PAID”


Green Codes

“Take nothing but photographs.
Leave nothing but footprints.”

One half of this rule I broke,
stuffing my canvas backpack
with buds of pungent Mugwort
to brew for inspiration.

Wild weed, totally legal,
subtle in its effects;
promoting lucid dreams.
And footprints left I none.


So where were The Spiders?

And once, on a very personal note,
I went to stand in the flooring section
of B&Q, Stretford, Manchester, just
to stand where Bowie had stood when
Ziggy played guitar. What
once had been a theatre there,
with the stage where now lie laminates,
the Wild-eyed Boy had strut his stuff
and The Spiders woven magic,
                  not carpets.

         And when that orange shack is gone
         there shall be spiders again:
         Sun spiders, jumping spiders,
         spiders brought here in Tesco bananas -
         urban-mythical spiders, big as your ’and,
         crawling across the web of roads
         to find this cosy, nichey ruin and
         the spider she swallowed down
         inside er
         The one to catch the fly.


A Calling

That voice again, announcing.  Hark!
Whence is thy voice, oh, cheery Tannoy?
Superstore?  Car Showroom?  Retail Park?
I look around:  All their flags are flying,
Flying everywhere; pennants ‘gainst
An azure sky, flapping from white poles;
Medieval armies, merry, camping out,
Singing from their corporate hearts. Their
Shining armoured vehicles, colours brave,
Circling the orbital, they have
This little land and me surrounded, almost.
There’s only that modest stretch of boxy sixties
Housing, over the graffitied wall:
It has not fallen – or am I much deceived?
I still don’t know what that thing was – the thing
He loaded into the boot of his car, that guy,
Parked up against the generous pavement.
The enormous bulk of Victorian church stands
Forgotten on the hill; a fortress, forlorn;
It’s the only building still totally caked
In soot and grime, the real, the proper stuff,
The deadly stuff of long, long, long ago.
That voice again:  I’m waiting for my name.



odd rituals
have been performed
since this place fell
apart like this lost all
sense of purpose after the
last dog ran his breathless race
last crowd wept the sun dialled on
the shadow touched another stanchion
or settled in another groove of that rev-
olving disc forever wedged forever young
though never ever played again?


That’ll be the Day

But not forever
one day one fine day
one pen will move
one finger click on send
an order be received somewhere
sanctioned actioned despite
perhaps objection over-ruled
one man sat at his controls
just doing his job will make his
one machine lurch forward
or move with smooth accord
for let’s be kind to him
who cannot be to blame
and cause the wave of bricks
to bulge fold rise
to break to fall again
and I see him hop down
bend down and pick up
that 45 and take it home

Simon Corble is a poet, playwright, writer and photographer based in the East Midlands. 


Wasted Space
Nina’s Story

The sun flickers in a haze over the waste land as I allow myself to accept that familiar feeling of acceptance which follows the escaping of the world through the fence.

A vast expanse of what was once the entertainment of so many.  The flowers, breaking through the asphalt - praying to the heavens to let them be free, anywhere from this work of grey - remind me of myself.  Hoping, yet going nowhere. 

Around this plateau of tarmac are remnants of happier times; the bathroom tiles waiting to be mopped, a lost doll, bewilderment within the eyes – and a lost glove.  A lone glove waiting for its owner to reunite the separated pair.  An owner that will never come.  Everyday the objects seem to shift positions restlessly.  I think it’s a message.  To show they still have faith – perhaps in the hope that their owners will finally realise their lack of presence.

I see myself within the scattered bricks.  No longer wanted.  That’s why I come here.  I feel less alone and somehow, cared for and caressed.   I have never met another soul here.  Well, actually, that’s a lie – I saw a silent mystery within the intertwined brambles.  I was intrigued the moment he appeared that day, although as to why, I cannot say.  There was a familiarity in his demeanour, or, in the piercing blue eyes that were striking, even from the distance. 

A bramble strikes its claws across my flesh; you must, even in the most secure of places tread carefully.   Everything in life seems wound up in such an intricately devastating knot – which seems impossible to ever undo.  This is where the smallest rays of sun beam so brightly in the dark cavern.  It’s the space.  I fix my eyes upon an eruption of life from the grey confines and fantasise an ideal life.  Not much, but a life.  Where to start?  The flowers…

I imagine a picturesque, rural area of lush greens and flamboyant flowers.  The cottage is surrounded by guards of apple trees, a secluded spot, yet brimming with all the life in the world.  I imagine playing with two friends as loyal as dogs.  A full family with no despicable revelations to be discovered, awaits within the walls…

I enjoy those few moments of joy before I realise that wishing never made a map to the gold.  Here awaits the box in which I belong – a blur of grey and yellow, smattered with other lost belongings of Earth, like myself.  And something else – a silent mystery.  A silent mystery that is gradually advancing nearer to where I crouch, protective over My land.

By Rowan, aged 13.

Rowan Corble is Simon Corble's daughter

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you! One small point: There is needs to be a separation between Thrive and True Nature.

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