billy casper’s tears

poems by Paul Summers

Come hail, rain or shine, every day for the last five years Paul Summers has taken a ritual walk along the rocky shore at the mouth of the River Tyne. For Summers, Freestone Point is a place of meditation and contemplation, observation, observance, celebration and grief. It is also the source of all the poems in his new collection, a space in which the imaginary and the documentary, the private and the political, the living and the dead can be seen, and rage, love, hope and despair heard above the hysterical gossip of the insatiable gulls.

Cover image: detail from DIORAMA SS.8.67 by Ian Stephenson, 1967

Sample Poems

dark

‘In den finsteren Zeiten,
wird da auch gesungen werden?
Da wird auch gesungen werden.
Von den finsteren Zeiten.’
Bertolt Brecht


& on the eighth day
there was darkness
again. even darker
than the last time
but not a patch on
the next if you believe
that weird, little god-nik
fucker at the monument.
darker than that time
you gaffer taped my eyes.
darker than that night
we hammered the poitin
in davy’s da’s shed & you
bit off the ears of his sister’s
classroom gerbil. darker
than the entire contents
of johnny cash’s wardrobe.
darker than the core of an
overlooked verruca. dark
as fuck, apart from a pulse
of weak, pale light emitted
in the west from the burntout
convoy of overturned
police-vans currently blocking
all six lanes of the A1(M) in both
directions, & from jimmy upstairs,
who has somehow rigged an old
black & white portable to a carbattery
so he can watch attheraces
completely unimpeded by events
of global significance, & your
slightly eccentric, europhile
neighbour; the one with the nice
job & the buy-to-let mortgage,
engaged in an act of quiet
immolation there in the back-lane,
precariously close to our wheelie-bin.
apart from all that though, it’s dark
as fuck. much darker than the last time,
not a patch on the next.

the emperor of sleet

wallsend


the billet hearth
retreats to ash,
its flicker dulled.
i dream the plains
of friesland green,
my children’s breath,
my wife’s warm curves,
my mother’s smile;
grief ’s battalions unrelenting.
tomorrow we march,
the next day too,
lost in the rhythm
of our advancement;
we learn another word for cold.

quake

‘the old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born:
now is the time of monsters.’
Antonio Gramsci


& the way will be perilous;
black ice & shark-eyed smiles,
several heaps of hogmanay vomit,
a vacant pizza-box draped with hoar,
its palimpsest of feast & greed,
bleak litany of the new & old,
dog-shit & fag-ends & crumbling roads,
the hours’ lash, the pains of labour,
the endless cycle of peddled fact.
& then the sanctuary of frozen sand;
its confluence of salt & wind-whipped crows,
the hymn of a sea cathedral hollow.
kick off your shoes my love & walk;
due east, towards the burgeoning sun.
plough on through the grave mounds
of haddock-frames & listless kelp,
tread slowly on the pebble field,
avoid the triggers of its toad-back traps;
then walk & wade & catch your breath,
beyond the bar where codling lurk,
let swell becalm your troubled blood,
squeeze shut your jaded eyes & dream;
the rapture of tectonic plates entwined
in acts of violence & of love, the red raw
ooze of magma’s birthing, each push,
each jolt, each breathless force exerted
sees citadels emergent from these waves,
a glimpse of doggerland’s trembling plains,
its strongholds of hope re-rendered
now un-drowned, their beacons still charged,
their gates agape, their monsters slain;
each edifice an altar awaiting our faith.

the great refusal

each brittle shaft
of autumn light
draughts distance
darker, ill-defined,
renders this grief
both arbitrary & vane.
the salt looks back,
retracing the wake
of the biggest adventure.
beyond the anarchy
of restless waves,
the shrinking smirk
of cold, black rock;
the basalt fists of home,
its petrified heart,
a mother’s weak magic,
a tight-lipped arc,
the great refusal.

coble

spanish battery, tynemouth


reluctantly,
a shivering crow
utters the semblance
of a blunt hello.
framed by grey,
the crabbers pray
the next pot full
& in the lull
between the haul,
the bait & set,
a moment gifted
to sweet regret.
the wind has shifted,
the swell grown loud,
her slapped percussion
on the hull & in the lull
of wane & surge,
their eyes are bowed
in quiet mourning,
entranced by the dirge
of the fog horn’s warning,
their losses replete:
each narrow defeat,
some love forsaken,
the road not taken,
their promise spurned,
the bridges burned,
a crust unearned.
the tide has turned.

the longest day

the sun is fake news;
luring the hipsters
to hunt out espadrilles
& ice-cooled ciders.
slave to the rigours
of her lunar obligations,
the sea, grown weary,
eternally deprived of sleep;
reluctantly whips up a swell,
her choir of waves
reduced to whispers.
this maudlin light
throws down her shade,
redraws the detail
of some blunt townscape:
the cathedral of mistrust,
the morgue of hope,
the grey necropolis of dreams,
the cold panopticon
of incarcerated fact,
the bleak infirmary
of all our passion.
a billion blunt faces
roughly rendered
from a low-cost amalgam
of grief & mediocrity:
their deafened ears, wax-sealed,
their cheek-bones ignoble,
their mouths agape,
their eyes unseeing.
in scarcity of certainty,
we relish in constants:
the stairwell at wetherspoons
rife with the perfumes
of debt & burnt chips,
the till-queue at aldi
resplendent with the glow
of defeated northern smiles,
& outside the co-op,
the yokes of our apathy,
abundant as leaves.

Reviews

‘Amid the uncertain, transitional landscape of the Tyne estuary, Paul Summers confronts disappointment, betrayal and grief and places them against the immense cycles of geology, weather, tide and season. Identifying grace and freedom in the ever-changing landscape and its birds, he participates in nature’s regenerative act, transforming bleakness into a love-song that transcends despair.’

Katrina Porteous

‘In this powerful new collection, Summers extends his habitual beach-comber’s patrol North of rapture, North of grief. The lines, tightening and toughening, pick up on the brute force of politics, economics, time and change. His exact skill is in setting the right ratio of passing bliss off against this largely bleak terrain, to glow disproportionately, to retrieve just enough’.

Matthew Caley

‘The poetry is in the fury, a righteous anguish which singles this work out as radical, renewing, and indispensable.’

WN Herbert