christopher james

Poems and prattle

Tag: England

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.


Martha at The Tour

This was the day we took you on Tour,
when the world came to Finchingfield:
bunting on the windmill, the deli, the menu
in French outside the pub. We sat with you
by the blue house, me in my cap and red stripes,
your mum in blue, like Gallic impersonators.
Around us were the Lycra pilgrims from the clubs,
radios pressed to their ear while Napoleon waited
in the crowd in Ray-Bans, a copy of Paris Match
tucked under his arm. Then the Peleton swept
through us, streaming like a river of colour,
a streak of luminescence, then gone and England
becomes England again while you point up at
the plane that has left two wheels drifting in the sky .


Tour de France

How the Morris Saved England

When the last Spitfire was shot from the sky
and the defences at Dover overrun,
they sent for the Morris: the men
of Upton Snodbury, the mixed side
from Hinton in the Hedges; the dancing
squires of Oddington and Wheatly.
They came in their thousands, a carnival
of tatter-coats and top hats, bell-pads
and baldrics, wielding handkerchiefs;
they leapt to a cacophony of jigs.
At the head was the fool of Ducklington,
in a yellow frock and a mug of ale,
bearing his whiskers, flowers in his hat.
They swept through the invaders
breaking open the lines of tanks:
a cavalry of hobby horses; Midlanders,
with the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance
bewildering the commanders, bewitching
their artillery. Their gunners would not fire,
seeing the distant cousin of the Schuhplattler,
the mountain dances. They returned
to the beaches, decamped and put to sea
while the Morris folk lined the cliffs,
in blue breeches and white stockings,
their neckerchiefs flapping in the breeze.