Poems about Histories

From the spit in a glass tube
they can tell me where I came from.
Ancestors who travelled continents, oceans,
placing my history in their footprints.
Immigrants: nomads in new lands,
stuffing their identity in pockets and old cases.
Wandering, in hope of one welcoming
out-stretched hand.

Within these veins, rivers flow:
makes-shift boats have voyaged.
Intrepid explorers, with no more
than a stone-washed promise for a guide.
Finding ‘safe cities’- only to witness
hostility in resentful eyes.

migrant, refugee, asylum seeker
brutalized –
for colour or religion but they
Finding a settling place to prosper,
grow, build, unpack their cases,
fill their pockets with earth
that was to be their home – My home.

We’re all wanderers, all branches from the same seed.
Our children’s footprints step into the future
taking them to where new wanderings will lead.

Month after long winter month of numbing cold,
Then sandstorms, followed by a summer’s heat
Such that one brush against a bare rock
Is enough to blister bare flesh; and never
A drop of rain, although snow lingers
Up in the gullies of the high peaks.
A god-forsaken hole you’d think.
Yet something in its emptiness,
The very aridity of the place,
Called to the Desert Fathers,
Determined to rid themselves
Of both pomp and prelate,
And discover the solace
To be found in time’s
Twin antagonists:
Solitude and

A Smoke screen setting the scene,
The silhouette of a state marionette,
Dashes across the heath,
Stashes a riffle in its sheath,

Tumbling upon the trench,
Stomach rumbling with the stench,
He comes upon room,
Covered in shrooms,

He takes another by the hands,
They wish for some or other land,
Each caught in the net of their eyes,
Maybe now they shall end all there lies,

One hands a note,
On this 4 letters he wrote,
Neither now spoke,
Voices invisible in the screams,

Soon they will be torn at the seams,
Today dies their last dream,
One cries both their tears gleam,
Stinging eyes are wiped,

Apart they will soon be ripped,
A secret affair striped,
But for now hands are griped,
By now they have lost their shame,

Walking out together without there lie,
The only option now is to die,
As the world has not the time to pry,
Leaving the trench, they utter but one word,
With the cry of a mine they say’’ good-bye,’’,

To the world their life was not lost, as they never lived.

Leeching hands feasted on our land possessed,
In penury we toiled and paid our rent.
Whilst of our plight and blight, no qualms expressed
As to England’s finest our pennies went.
Darlin’ Terence, through rain and winter’s snow
Back arched against cold winds and certain death.
Hunger’s relentless march you fought to slow
For us a chance – the cost, your final breath.
At dawn we set to march through riven lands
Past hapless, blighted souls, life’s constant bane,
Men claim your last with grasping, clasping hands,
Past famine roads we laboured on through pain
‘till down we looked upon a joyless shore.
On coffin ships, we left An Gorta Mór.


There’s a grave in a field behind Sunderland Point,
And that’s where poor Samboo lies.
He was laid to rest in unconsecrated ground.
He wasn’t a Christian (so they thought)
A Black boy, abandoned by his master (so they say)
He pined and died,
in the loft of Upsteps Cottage.
Or was he seeking refuge?
He came from the West Indies
On a ship full of sugar and rum.
Zambu is a Spanish word,
Samboo, Sambo, mixed race boy.
There were many Sambos,
Black and White Sambos
White and Black Sambos
He may have had an African name
Or an English name,
Dorothea Smartt calls him Bilal, and gives ninety-nine
Other names for such a boy.
His grave is a place of pilgrimage,
And many pilgrims say,

We don’t like Samboo or Sambo.

What shall we call him now?

His name we do not know, or why he came.

All we think we know is a mixed race boy

Came to Sunderland Point and died.


From Huddersfield to Ypres,
He marched towards his fate,
Part of a proud memorial
To brother, son, and mate,
Where the world should learn a lesson
From the sacrifice he’d make
As one of fifty-four thousand
Carved on the Menin Gate.

His life? … I never knew him.
His death? … I couldn’t share
But he is the reason why
I am here, today, to care.
For he was here before me
On Addenda Panel fifty-eight
As one of fifty-four thousand
Carved on the Menin Gate.

So I search amongst the surnames
In the silence of this shrine
Until at last I find it;
The name that matches mine.
He is not missing, he is here,
A hundred years and more his wait,
Amongst the fifty-four thousand
Carved on the Menin Gate.

‘He is not missing, he is here’;
Hushed words that resonate
Along the hallways of this refuge
Against fear and war and hate.
Now we must continue to secure it and,
Each year on one special date,
Remember those fifty-four thousand
Carved on the Menin Gate.


Dark, dark times when these island shores
Of sandy bays
Became a tin prison of closed doors and walls.
Camp 60’s POW chapel built with endless human resource,
Of throwaway wood, metal and tin.
A refuge of warmth and peace
Alongside grey, war fuelled concrete sea barriers.

Simple bold icons of terracotta blues and yellows,
And copied figures of decorative religious finesse
To rival any village Italian chapel.
History sits here and demands to be told,
Of worship and search for greater purpose
Than sheer existence on these wild rugged shores.

I walked in the woods, heard dead children singing a lament. I bathed
in a forest clearing, nature filled me with its misery, whispering long
held secrets, buried in time. As yet undiscovered, four sisters, a brother,
father and mother. Sixty years have past, their graves hidden, grassed over.
Their secrets soon to be revealed by those seeking evidence of their murder.

Tsar Nicholas and family, wife Alexandra, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
Last of the Romanov dynasty. Abandoned to their gruesome fate, denied refuge
in Britain by George V, the Tsar’s first cousin. All Europe’s doors closed to them,
unwilling to offer sanctuary, wary of inviting trouble to their shore.

To be Russian royalty was to be Other, deeply unpopular in the Motherland,
the people turned against them. March 1917, Nicholas abdicates, amidst
economic chaos, WW1 rages, food supplies low. In November Lenin’s Bolshevik
revolutionaries took over government. Drunk on ideology, seething with envy,
power hungry, craving a place in history, set out to create a communist society.

Consumed with jealousy, entitlement, greed, they plotted to wipe out the Tsar and
family, plucked them from their regal lifestyle in the Winter Palace, held them
prisoner at various locations. Ipatiev House, Yekaterinburg, ‘ The house of
special purpose’, was made into a fortress prison for the Tsar and family.

17th July 1918, the Romanov family were shot, bayoneted, slaughtered. Four
faithful retainers died alongside them. A grisly lingering death, carried out by
Bolshevik enforcers in the basement of Ipatiev House. The murderers stole the
precious jewels concealed in their clothing, sewn in their petticoats. After their
execution, no bodies were found, giving rise to persistent rumours, Grand
Duchess Anastasia the youngest daughter, had somehow escaped the slaughter.

Many imposters claimed to be her, but lacked knowledge of Romanov history.
Medical, dental records and handwriting analysis were used to disprove false
claims. Letters, diaries and photographs proved the imposters were liars. They
were challenged linguistically, Anastasia spoke Russian, English and French
fluently. Evaluations took place, to determine the imposters mental motivation,
did they really believe they were Anastasia or had they tried to deceive.

The location of the bodies remained a mystery until recently. A grave was
discovered in 1979, exhumed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991,
the remains didn’t include Anastasia. She was found much later in a grave with
her younger brother Alexei, not far from where her parents and sisters lay. In
2007 DNA testing identified her, disproving the claims of imposters. The
Romanov family were laid to rest in Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg.

The usurpers committed Regicide, hoped for a better society, not knowing worse
was coming. Mother Russia, brought to her knees, henceforth ruled by tyrants,
dictators, thieves. The glorious revolution, with its idealistic expectations was
just a dream. Russia still mired deep in corruption, no solution forthcoming.

Two thousand years this castle stood
A thousand dreams and more it’s held
Dreams of love untold – like whispering secrets
Clouds floating by obscuring the sun

A pilgrim of fantasies – untold – untouched
Brazen as the wind – battering the turret’s
Come fly with me – I’ll keep you safe
Then you wake up – you fall to the ground

Disillusioned, embittered, like the relentless stone
Surrounding this fortress – not a castle – but a prison
of your mind, your soul, the ever deepening darkness
Dragging you down to the dungeons of your mind

For dreams can die, as do the embers of a fire – love forlorn
Extinguished, cold, laid bare, war comes without a warning
The fire of fight is ignited – we must fight for freedom
A life snuffed out in one cold strike – lifeless like the stone

Dying embers emblazoned on the charred souls
Of the departed in battle – fighting for what never was
And what would never be – as victory is no ones
Blood soaked walls of thirsty foe – surround this castle

The departed souls rise – to escape – emulate
Feather lite – flapping free – as a bird might soar
Leaving this world behind – free of pain – of war
Sorrow disintegrates – finally peace descends all

But, time after time – history repeats itself
We may have won the battle – but not the war
For years or century’s to come – there will be more wars
There always is – we never learn