The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley


We chose a day when the sun rising
all red and bruised my brother Jimmy said
like the day was driven to commit suicide
before it was born.
It was brilliant, he said
like it was expecting.

And my ceremony in the church was too.
Dad was all puffed up and sweaty and red.
He was angry at Bill for giving me a child
but I told him it would be a beautiful boy.

When I said ‘I do.’ he was so naffed off
he had a heart attack and died,
and lilies grew out of his wound.

I put them in my bouquet and when I threw it
all petals falling off like dandruff,
Mary caught it.
She’s been blind since birth
and smelt it coming towards her.
She’s always loved lilies.

At the reception
Jimmy had been up all hours.
Suffers from amnesia see. Jimmy
had caught a fish big as a Rover Metro.
At Worsborough Res.
Early in the morning.
And its scales fell off
in dribs and drabs.

We used them for plates.
The meat was tender, melted in the mouth.
The whole town came
and Mr. Prime Minister played Nipsey
with King Arthur at Locke Park
where Bill and I strolled
after the ceremony.

Jimmy and Mary had gone round ‘specially
polishing up the graffiti
till it was like chrome,
all shiny like a new day,
like a beautiful boy,
or so Jimmy said.


Its always night, the bairn,
gob like a c.d. system on full
screaming till the whole town shakes
and the rest of our street ablaze with his bawling;
cracks in the pavement and sewers,
across the neighbours ceilings
and dishes and plates tummel
on the floor and break into pieces,
like rust on the bottom of our Lada

showing us up. So I leave
Tracy to it. Take Grosvenor Milton Concorde
for a stride and flit down the Dearne,
where it’s quiet and Gonna can run to his hearts …

Porsche of a dog.
Nought to ninety in three seconds.
Streamlined like our Tracy before
we got hitched; as Lozzies exotic pet what scarpered
when we ambushed him bound home,
after school, round here-Tinkers Pond.
Flit as light on water.
Slid away.
Never seen since, though Blind Mary
felt its clamminess courting …

Look there! Gonnas nosing the exact spot.
She was courting Jimmy, the brother-in-law.
We know what she means.
Dirty bitch. Gonna’d be after it , if it was living;
Sharp as a Stanley knife,
sniff out lolly wrappers
as lads know its home-time
and time for egging nests in these bushes,
for screaming, cracking and bawling
and keeping shut down Tinkers.

The whole town knows
it’s more than their lives to call
when anglers are round the Pond.
Silent as the grave what Dearne
is for Lozzie , ‘cos he lost his footing
and drownded , poor mite and him
not more than nine and the water
weren’t more than three feet down.

Jimmy and Mary blames this
slippery bridge,
and crossed over now Lozzie’li be fondling
his exotic pet like some brand spanking motor.

Some shiny spice packets crackling in the grass
and wind slapping oily plastic against rivers side scares the bloody living out of Gonna and me.
Him on edge, what he’s got to be , to be good;
sharp as a float or them anglers round Tinkers
waiting … waiting …
for that yanking line.
and when they do … some break to pieces,
even round here where it’s quiet
and ought might happen
and nobody’d call
any different. Eh Gonna!


We’re being repossessd.
We can’t afford the bills.
So it’s out by noon, God willing.
Uprootings hellish.’specially last minute.
And we’ve had this house … What? .. Five years.
Since we married in fact.
And if we had a choice, eh Jim! Violins should be playing now.
Bill and Tracy say they’ll put us up,
while we get sorted. Glorious couple.
Bill’lI be arriving any second now
with that inarticulate van. If he remembers.
(Always does his allotment on Saturdays. )

I just thought, Jim. (forgive us, love.) That photo. of your father you told me about.

It’s still on the mantelpiece.
Make an effort and get it.
Radarl Call it what you like.
I can always tell
when he’s forgot something.
Not like his father.
His dad was an elephant.
a big, red, loud voiced, loud footed,
marvelous man, with a prodigious memory.
But it’s a beautiful picture, according to Jim.
Taken outside Dodworth pit
before it closed and The Old Mammal died.
His dads life was that blessed mine.
Hated every (God forgive me) damn minute.
By Jims reckoning his dad only went down
because he lacked the required qualifications
to better himself at college,
and he had a wife, Jim and Tracy to support.
Jim says the reason lies in him going to college
and coming out with different ideas
but I know it was me.

Thanks ,love.
You can tell it’s Jim.
Quick footsteps. Like he’s forever in a rush.
God forgive me , speaking ill of the dead.
his father could never forgive
and forget his only son marrying a cripple.
Look! Can you see his father there?
You have brought the right one Jim?
What’s he like!
That’s alright then.
It took the pit accident, breaking both his legs
The old man ended his life a shot-firing deputy.
Never go down will you Jim?
Not since The Great Red Elephants last accident.
and Jims overtures to him
to persuade the Prodigious Mammal to retire and put extra effort
into his glorious prize lilies.
Jim fretted himself sick, waiting for them to bring him up.
A week later.
Tracys wedding, in fact. The marvel shuffled off
to the Elephants Graveyard .
Jim’s taken over the horticulture, now.
And Jim doesn’t mind me saying this . in front of folks:
Neither were on speaking terms the last five years.
You retake possession of your past when your forced to move.
In the rush Jim unearthed
a photo of my previous husband.
I thought I’d destroyed them all.
But Jim called me a daft bat
and said he’d not remind me again if with Gods help I forget Bert ever existed .
That’s Bills van!
I can always tell.
Jim told him to reset the points. Hell freezing overs more likely!


He is a gentle man in essence.
I try to arrive five o’clock,
every Thursday. He doesn’t like me late.
My father tells me stories, told to him by the illiterate dead.
I take him my latest lilies.
Fresh out the greenhouse. He advises, with the Creator ofEden, no doubt, putting in his twopenneth too.
I clip the grass round the plot and refill the vase. Sometimes
I have to clean graffiti off the stone.
He tells me when I’ve left a bit.
I think he’s mellowing with age.
I tell him we’ve moved, and what Tracy’s bairn’s christening was like.
She called him Scott, after dads favourite explorer. I’ve told her to watch him like a hawk if he says
He’s popping out and won’t be long.”
There are other Barnsleys beneath the pavement.
Here endeth todays lesson!
But dad’s clued-up already.
Not that Tracys been. She’s too scared to show respect. She’s seen
too many horror movies.

The dead are the most
convivial people you could ever hope to meet.
Most people, like my wife, ignore them or are scared witless like Bill.,.
Now that’s an obscenity!
You deny your own history.
Some person, like dad, set up shop on the Dearne invented the town.
You cannot discover
something if it aint there in the first place.

Copyright Paul Brookes from the pamphlet ‘The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley’, Dearne Community Arts, 1993

One thought on “The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley

  1. Pingback: Paul Brookes – three poems – Clear Poetry

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