Echo Chamber

His work hangs on the gallery wall.
We hear its buzz.
We’re in its thrall.

Each piece still humming with the thrum.
As strong as when the work was done.
That clay was soft and took the mould
Of artist’s hands and brush strokes bold
Laid down their layers one by one
Upon the canvas taut as drum.

And so lives on the artist tutor.
Who has a past as well a future.
Whose work transcends the passing years
Through others’ eyes and hands and ears.

We hear the echo loud and clear.
The artist lives! Ne’er shed a tear.

Courtesy Gallery 131, Ludlow
Courtesy Gallery 131, Ludlow

These words came to me after attending a preview of the Man and Light exhibition running at Gallery 131 on Corve Street in Ludlow until March 19th.  The exhibition celebrates the work of the Midlands artist Arthur Berridge (1902 – 1957). Opening it the sculptor Stephen Cox RA explained how Berridge was underrated – both as an artist and as a teacher. It struck me then that echoes of the creative compulsion that drives artists like Berridge and Cox reverberate indefinitely: directly through their work (and more loudly when many works are brought together in one place); and indirectly through the work of others they’ve taught.

I heard these echoes and wrote them down.

Richard Uridge

Crosshands Cottage

Now as the dusk is drawing in
Around these weathered cottage walls
The birds sing out an evening hymn
Their last before the darkness falls
And carried on a gentle breeze
Which shimmers through the grass and trees
A haunting curlew calls.

Farmland and hills soon disappear
Shrouded beneath the cloak of night
And Springtime flowers held so dear
Are safely hidden from our sight
By day the golden tulip blooms
Reflect the warmth within these rooms
Now bathed in candlelight.

Comforting chair by fireside glow
When daylight struggles once more cease
Thoughts that surround us ebb and flow
More mellow as the flames increase
The fiery dance directs our gaze
Enveloped in the tender blaze
We find refreshing peace.

This Shropshire home is sleeping now
Beneath a starry, jewelled sky
While somewhere on a moonlit bough
A lone owl hoots his lullaby
And lying still we long to hear
Piercing the darkness plain and clear
Another bird’s reply.

Joanne Emery


I’ve only just rediscovered these wonderful lines. They were composed after the poet stayed at Crosshands with her family a few years ago. Written in a neat hand on a scrap of A4 they’d been tucked inside a book for safe keeping. And that’s where they might have stayed if I hadn’t been leafing through the book (by Clive James) for some inspiration. I hope you’ll agree it’s a cracking poem. And I like to think the Aussie wordsmith wouldn’t have minded keeping it safe all this time. But then I’m biased. The poet is my sister. Proving that our father, Brian’s, love of words rubbed off on both of us. Thank you Joanne, thank you Clive and thank you, most of all, dad.

Richard Uridge

Paris in Springtime

ISIL

I whisper je t’aime.
You shout hate.

I hold hands.
You hack them off.

The stain on my tablecloth is wine.
Yours is blood.

I bare my throat for a kiss.
Not a knife.

Strap children to my chest.
Not explosives.

Shoot pictures.
Not guns.

France

Once we were at war.
At Agincourt.

We cut off your fingers.
Saluted you with ours

Paris

Where I’ve loved.
And been loved.

Walked along your river.
Climbed your tower.

Sipped your Champagne.
Dipped in your river

Ogled your cancan girls.
Haggled for your Impressionists

Winter may be bitter.
But Spring will return.

Unheard symphony

He’d forgotten how to listen. To still his knotted mind until the sounds untangled. Untied one by one from the thrum.

Listened.

Registered. Identified. Appreciated.

More, much more than mechanical.

No eardrum beat alone. But notes in a symphony. The orchestra all around. Violin, horn, oboe. Dunlin, dawn, crow.

As he listened each sound got louder. Or rather expanded. Until it filled the concert hall of his mind. All other thoughts displaced. The frantic rhythm paced.

He started to cry. Or it started to rain. Perhaps it was both. Tambourine drops rattling the leaf litter at his feet.

Slowly, quietly. Adagio, pianissimo.

Louder, faster, Più forte, accelerando.

Dampened, dying. Smorzando.

Is a sound unheard a sound at all, he wondered?

And in that moment remembered how to listen.

(F)owl play

The owls were sated. Full of moles
and torn up scraps of suede-skinned voles.
Plucked from the ground in the dead of night
by the white-winged warrior with the gift of flight.

They didn’t hear the approach of death
for the owl can murder with barely a breath.
That they died in pain is dead cert sure
judging from the splash of crimson gore.

Evidence was plain for all too see:
a furry pellet at the foot of the tree.
If the police were called to solve this crime
they’d have it cracked in double quick time

‘cos all wrapped up in the ball of fluff
inedible bone and incriminating stuff.
The hooded crow would be judge and jury
and vent his spleen with his usual fury.

The surviving mole would give his version
with unassailable assertion.
The verdict was not when it came a surprise
because owl is a creature that others despise.

“I find you guilty and you must hang,”
said crow without an avian pang.
The case made the front of the woodland clarion.
Headline: owl makes tasty carrion.

So remove the pellet from the base of the tree
then the owlets will live to themselves fly free.

Entwined

The snow was mostly gone. But it lingered in the tramlines where tractors had trodden two months earlier. Then the ground was sticky and the tyres left what, from this distance, looked like the parallel prints of a finger painting.

We followed one of the grooves towards a drift of sheep. For the first half-mile they appeared as white woolen flakes sticking together for warmth and huddled against the hedge line for protection from the easterly wind.

But close up they resolved to a slushy grey. Winter coats tie-dyed with a combination of red clay streaks and blue woad farmers’ marks. Worsted darned with threads of bramble from close encounters with the field boundary. A woven landscape of which we were a part. Warp and weft.

Across the valley, behind a curl of woodsmoke, in a patch of the cloth with the sun still on it, the sheep were scattered. Pearls from a broken necklace rolled across a green carpet.

And in the field at our feet a stooped apple was festooned with mistletoe and garlanded with wool. Nature’s Christmas tree for anyone bothering to wait a while. There, under a priceless chandelier of white berries, we kissed.

Hands held. Eyes locked. And in that one moment physical and emotional landscapes entwined.