top of page

The Blackcountryman poems of Jim William Jones Part 3.

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

The first of today's poems is from the Blackcountryman Number 20.3 1987 - a sad, evocative tale of a long dead child - "A child's grave in Gornal"

A child’s grave in Gornal

An old jam jar

Holds a few battered daffodils

And two shrivelled sills

Of frost-bitten green;

And the stones are green

In the crumbling wall:

An infant’s grave….

It seems to rock

In the biting breath

Of bitter winter’s lingering death;

Only an illusion:

It is the pitiful flowers that rock

In the glass jar’s jellied slime;

A tiny grave…

From those old times,

Framed with bits of old brick,

And littered with old stalks

Of long-forgotten flowers;

Sixty years they say

Since this infant passed away:

His short life

Was in a day

When poverty held sway,

And disease stalked

Where children played and walked

And ran in and about

This Gornal street.

A lonely man….

Eighty-two now,

Remembers the young boy,

And comes stealthily,

Out of the shadows of day,

With is wistful flowers:

And as the light vanishes,

The cold muffling darkness,

Seems a huge and crying thing.

The second of today's poems, and the last of this brief selection is from the Blackcountryman Number 22.2 1989 "across the leas" - a lament for the Black Country as it was then, broken by the large scale closures of industry in the 1980s. "In these days, The Black country is lying down, Like a sick dog, no fight left".

Across the Leas

In the night

You would hear the big steam trains

Shouting to one another

Across the leas.

And the bark of their funnels

As they strained

At the snake-line of singing tricks

Loaded with coal, pig-iron,

Sheet steel from the mills.

In those days

The Black Country was an ‘empire’

Of industry; fire and smoke,

Iron and steel,

The wrenching of coal from deep earth.

And limestone

For the flux of boiling furnaces;

Foundries, rolling mills; big men

Grappling with great power.

And women,

Aproned in sacking, head-tied.

Tough as the men they married,

Working as hard,

And bearing crowds of children,

Some to die

In the constant battle to survive

In the boxy cottages, back to back

Sometimes six to a bed.

In the night

You would see, like an early dawn,

A yawning glow of red fire

Across the leas;

And hear the heart-beat booming

Of pistons.

Thrusting great wheels and heavy roll;

And the furnaces puking

Their radiant vomit out.

In those days

Factory sirens would start the day

In grand symphonic manner;

What wondrous notes!

With the sun’s baton beating.

And the sky

Shouting ‘bravo’, with clapping clouds

Giving standing ovations

From the galleries of heaven.

In these days

The Black country is lying down

Like a sick dog, no fight left:

Iron and steel—

The dribblings of an old tack tin;

Crumbs of fire

From the kicked ashes of bygone days;

Foundries, rolling mills, all dead,

Like the men who gave them life.

166 views0 comments


bottom of page