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Here are three poems collected in conversations and some workshops around Flint Town.  This poem was inspired by a photo someone showed me in a cafe, of the Beauty Queen elected in 1956 by the Courtaulds' Factory in Flint (now closed) makers of many fabrics but principally, at that time, rayon.  The word threw me back to my childhood:


Rayon Queen 1956


She sits on a swing,

pretty maids all in a row

around her. Gloved hands grasp

metal ropes. They have

curly hair, lit-up faces.

They laugh.  Her hand waves

from the picture, gracious,

regal, like the real Queen.

The maids are clad in, well,

it looks like satin, although it

can’t be. And her dress

(a reflex I cannot help:

mandarin collar, side-zip,

drop-waist, bow on the seam,

dolman-sleeved, tiny buttons on the cuff)

looks like a sprigged brocade.  But no,

she must be wearing it, surely. 

Rayon.  For she is the Rayon Queen.


The word takes me back,

Grandma, mum, big sister,

forever poring over patterns:

Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls;

the Singer Sewing Machine forever

whirring and purring; their boxes of

Sylko cotton-reels and spools

of thread and buttons. The

endless fingering of fabric, the

endless asking, is it cotton?  No.

Is it man-made, Bri-Nylon,

Tricel, Polyester? Rayon.

Me, unable to sew, Old-

Nose-in-a-Book, yet gripped

by the drama of Feel, of

Shape. Of Colour.  I could say

blue in a dozen different ways

by the time I was

six. Powder, azure, sky,

aquamarine, amethyst,

turquoise sapphire royal

violet indigo. And the war-time

blues.  Navy.  Air-force.


They are all dead now,

those women, those men,

maybe these girls.

We don’t wear

rayon any more. Only in this

picture of the Queen, and

her laughing ladies, in waiting.

And this one came from another photograph in the same cafe, of a couple running a Flint pub in a bygone decade.  I was struck by how ill the man looked:



He occupies half the picture.

Collarless shirt, very white, undone at the neck,

sleeves rolled up,

one tattooed arm at rest on the bar,

the other on the corner of the triple pumps.

Not a well man by the look of him,

something about the eyes.

But he’s smiling. Not many teeth.

Not much hair either. Actually

not a big man,

but saying, I own this,

this is my pub.

In the other half,

his other half,

to one side, slightly behind him.

Right arm right across her bespectacled face

to grip the top of the pump,

as if warding off the terrible blow

she knows will come.

The pumps, shiny brass,

like candlesticks at a funeral.

This one was inspired by talking to a woman in Flint Library.  She walked with a stick and she said the Library was the furthest she could walk.  She had been re-located from her small house in Flint which had been demolished, to a flat in the tower block known as The Heights.  She liked the view but told me she missed her garden, and why:  

The Heights


Seven floors up,

she peers through


Sunrise.  A

wide sky,

whirling sea-birds,

estuary far below.

She pinpoints with her

tiny eye, barges,

fishing boats.


She cannot identify

these birds. They are just

movements of

white wings in

space. Or

tiny black scratches

on grey steel.


She remembers her garden,

bird-feeders in a tree,

stripes and spots and

soft chests, colours

close up, startling.

Greenfinch.  Nuthatch.



Still, now she has the whole sky.

The view holds her suspended.

The birds cry and call.

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