christopher james

Poems and prattle

Month: September, 2014

Kettering Goes into Outer Space

At first it was simple things:
a policeman’s helmet levitating above his head,
a post-box that floated like a Dalek down the street,
the frog that leapt and never came back.
This was the town that came loose
at the seams, that lost its centre of gravity.
Only when the clock tower shot like a firework
through the clouds did they ask people
to keep pets indoors and travel
only with stones in their pockets.

The spire of St Peter’s and Paul’s
went the same way: fired like a missile
into the heavens; the vicar followed it up,
ascending like a rocket man in a dog collar.
The townspeople, steady folk, kept their feet
on the ground and wore crampons to the shops.
Kettering FC would only play with all eleven
roped together and tethered to the goal post.
At the offices of the Northants Telegraph
they placed a large order for paperweights.

In the Old Market Inn there was talk
of military experiments: science gone wrong;
reversed polarities. They chained the mayor
to the Town Hall lest he rose above his station.
They played only heavy metal on Radio
Northamptonshire. When it finally happened,
one night at the end of June, there was a groaning
like the day the Poppies were relegated.
A moment’s resistance, then the town sprang
into the air, like a plug, popped from a drain.

Showering bones and sewage pipes,
it picked up speed, a town banished from the earth.
Far below the A14 swerved around the gap.
They navigated from the Corn Exchange,
issuing handouts, travel sweets and copies
of The Usborne Guide to the Solar System,
And you’ll still see it now, on summer nights,
crawling like a comet across the sky, up there
without a sound, the old shoe factory, the theme park,
the lights still winking on the rugby ground.


The Brand New Old Fashioned

I’ve been playing lots of ukulele recently and writing lots of songs – a ridiculous number of songs in fact, all rather silly and consequential, but very good fun. Despite the fact that the instrument only cost eight pounds, I’ve found that I’ve barely picked up my guitar in the last three months. Ukuleles should come with a health warning – they are incredibly addictive.

This song is about a little known resort in North Norfolk called Mundesley, a quiet little spot at the unfashionable end of Poppyland, where in my experience, it nearly always rains . . .

CJ Mundesley

Apollo XII

Launched in a storm,
the bolt thrown back
to Hades,
it shivers with electricity.

Fearing a rival
the thunder god strikes –

lightening quickens
its spine.

And inside, chaos.
As the gold tail burns
the cabin flickers

with mathematics
and voices babble
in the tower.

Then she steadies:
climbs into light,
then darkness.

But the miracle
this time is somehow
less miraculous,

And now,
Conrad, Gordon, Bean,
the three who sailed
the Ocean of Storms

are as forgotten
as the pilgrims
who followed
the Mayflower.


Watch this amazing five minute video telling the story of the terrifying launch. 

Apollo XI

Finger of light
fantastic folly,
delight of the Florida sky;
wonder of an age,
your slow burn
defied the Earth
like the hubris
of the king
who dared the sea.

Pointed arrow
shot to the heavens,
you longed for starlight,
and found solace
in the dark.

of our ambition,
cosmic steed,
you rode
the black avenues
and lapped
at the heels of the moon.

Seeker of deliverance;
perfection of steel,
we watched you leave us,
fired deep
into the sorrow of space.

Apollo XI, Space, Moon, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin