Poems Make Trees (and help refurbish bandstands)

Between 2004 and 2005 I was writer-in-residence at North Lodge Park in Darlington. As well as engaging local communities and schools in the project which was worthwhile in itself, I produced a small collection of poems called ‘Tongues in Trees’ which I reported on here some time ago, the sale of which raised over £500 for replacement trees for the park. But as can be seen from this photo album the bandstand, at the time I started my residency had fallen into disrepair. To prevent any further damage it was boarded up and a poem I wrote about it was placed on separate boards and attached to the hoardings. Through the tireless efforts of The Friends of North Lodge Park, (and I like to think with a little help via my project), funding was finally raised to refurbish the bandstand and restore it to its former glory. I visited the bandstand yesterday, 15 October, 2010 and am delighted to present here some pictures of how it was in 2003 on its hundredth birthday, a picture of it boarded up and how it is now. Who said poetry does nothing!

Here is the poem I wrote dedicated to the bandstand (the one that appeared on the hoardings)

What the Bandstand Knows

I
Music quavers in the lattice,
waits to be played again.
Rook plants his claws round the minaret
but he can’t interpret the song;
and even when Tipperary drips into his ears
and poppies make the grass bleed,
even when hugs linger on the steps
and a blond snaps her lover’s face
before he marches towards an honour guard of trees,
even then rook can’t unpick the song.

He circles eight times,
perhaps he prays,
perhaps he makes a feathered offering
or imagines a Christmas friendly,
re-run like a silent brown movie,
maybe the smell of shared tobacco fills the air.
An iron fountain, it’s mouth half open,
sharpening its petals,
knows everything
but it too, is silent;
careless talk costs lives.

Tommy woz here,
Tommy woz here,

graffiti talk,
for Your Country Needs You,
and at the squawk of it,
trees curl their toes,
leaves shake.
 
A finger points,
            blue-eyed cornflowers
stare back from the dead.
Save for a distant chatter of tracks,
there is still no fanfare,
no sound,
nothing.

II
Music quavers in the lattice,
waits to be played again.
Rook plants his claws round the minaret
but he can’t interpret the song;
and even when Sugababes drip into his ears,
and needles make the grass sting,
even when hugs cling to broken railings
and a blond snaps her lover’s face,
                                                minimises it,
before he marches towards an honour-guard of trees,
even then, rook can’t unpick the song.

He circles eight times,
perhaps he prays,
perhaps he makes a feathered offering,
doubts the stories of mass-destruction.
Maybe a smell of peace fills the air.
The iron fountain, with its half-open mouth
knows nothing now
except that talk across the pond costs lives.

Words bounce off screens,
off phones,
off brick walls
Who’s the Daddy,
Who’s the Daddy,
graffiti talk
for a matter of National Security,
and at the squawk of it,
trees curl their toes,
leaves shake.
 
Flowers are tight-lipped,
won’t share the sweet smell of brass-notes.
Nothing grows,
Brown eyes,
blue eyes,
blank eyes
stare from the virtually dead.

Save for a distant trickle of oil in the sand,
there is no sound – nothing.

(Maureen Almond
            Poet-in-Residence, North Lodge Park, 2004-2005)


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