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The Blackcountryman poems of Jim William Jones Part 2.

Jim William Jones was a Black Country poet who contributed numerous poems to the first 25 years of the Blackcountryman from 1967 to 1992. He is perhaps best known for his dialect poems, some of which can be found in two small publications by the Society – “From under the smoke” from 1972 and “Factory and Fireside” from 1974, both sadly long out of print. His contributions to the Blackcountryman were however largely in standard English. Jim Jones was born in 1923 and died in 1993, and to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 30th anniversary of his death, I will post a number of his Blackcountryman poems over the next few weeks. Whilst his dialect poems displayed a gentle humour, those in standard English are generally darker and more serious in tone, and this will be reflected in my choice of those I include in the posts. I readily admit I am not a poet, but I find much of his work gracious and moving. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


Chris Baker


Despite what is said above, one or two of Jim Jones' dialect poems did appear in the Blackcountryman. The first of today's poems is one such - a gentle romantic tale, ending with the imagery of sunlight that can be found in many of his poems. - "Now 'er comes" from the Blackcountryman Number 12.3 1979





Now ‘er comes


Between foundry stacks

An’ the humped shoulders

O’ blast furnaces,

A jet plane

Small as a gnat

Cuts a slice out of the sky

An’ drags cloud from it.

A scarf o’ smoke

Winds round in the wind:

The ‘bulls’ am blartin’;

A bundle o’ loud voices

Goz rollin’ by.

It’s time ter goo.

But ah’m a’ waitin’ - a bit,

Hesitatin’

By the big gairtes,

‘Onds in pockets,

Kickin’ the foundry dust

Off me bewts

Tired an’ sick—

Me throat thick

Wi’ smoke an’ grit,

Me yed split

Wi’ the noise

O’ wheels and clatterin’ steel.

Now ‘er comes

Across the grimy yard

As though ‘e wuz in Himley Woods

Trippin through bluebells;

Sweet—clean -

Fresh as dawn

On a mountain.

‘Er sees me—’er’s a-smiling’.

Quickening ‘er step.

An’ then—an’ then

- A miracle -

The foundry - the yard -

The roarin’ road -

All thoughts o’ the day’s wairk load

Am gone -

An we’me one,

Me an ‘er

Walkin’ in liquid gold

An’ the light all about we.


The second of today's poems is from the Blackcountryman Number 15.3 1982 "Man on the bridge" - a picture of human despair and hopelessness. The final words "The grimace of cheated death, Lingering there, on the bridge" sticks in my mind.





Man on a bridge


His soul,

Sheathed in steel,

Glints through his eyes,

Watching

The timeless freckling

Of sun-sequined water,

Pall-black shadows,

Light-carved,

Crinkling out from factory walls.

A moist impress

Of summer heat

Clings about him:

Solar flame

Teasing his weary flesh

With tropic fire.

Voice of water

Rustling, inviting

To cool, painless vaults of green.

His mind recalls

The many summers

Of his youth -

Hazy beyond the edge

Of a flayed wasteland.

Wistful memories

Turning up

To feed on his despair,

Like nibbling rats.

Calling, pleading

The water rolls

Beneath the bridge.

Slowly he turns,

Slowly walks away

His soul shrieking:

And as he walks he is aware

Of the grimace of cheated death

Lingering there, on the bridge.

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