Playing with Fire
In childhood, summer fires
would sweep the mineral line,
bringing the local brigade
bell-clanging down our road.
Whooping in their wake
a comet tail of kids.
In those days of steam
a stoker’s fag-end ash,
a stray glead, could easily
kindle the straw-dry grass.
With snapped Elder branch,
or a borrowed shovel,
we, little flea-pit heroes,
would stand with shirt-sleeved
firemen, slowly advance,
beat out the dancing flames.
Smut-stained we’d return
covered in soot and glory.
It was only as an adult
I learned the true facts.
Firemen always attributed
an unknown cause to,
“a young child playing
with a match”.
We Never Had It So Good.
Our long row; a frontier of sorts.
Acres of allotments at the back,
its front faced industries sliding
to dereliction, some already dead.
The breakers yard feasted
on an obsolete merchant fleet,
gobbled the remains of steam,
then starved as the steel ran out.
We scuttled in darkness, frost or rain
to a toilet with a bell-clank flush.
Lead pipes with winter-burst repairs
swollen like arthritic knuckles.
Cobbles, front and back, ragman’s
cart rumbling on black whinstone.
Spring tides would rise up drains,
flood the lane with dilute sewage.
Kids played, plodged, dodged turds,
condoms, smudged squares of old news.
Too poor, too ignorant to have allergies,
just immunity; enough to stop a horse.
Tom Moody lives in Tynedale. He is a former nurse and has an MA in creative writing from Newcastle University. Published work includes: articles, short stories and a prize-winning script for local radio. His poetry has appeared in Orbis, Prole, Algebra of Owls, Ink Sweat and Tears, Riggwelter and Three Drops from the Cauldron . When not writing, he plays saxophone, walks his dog and cooks curries (not all at the same time).