His God was Dylan, Bob


Seven poems about growing up in Coventry


No one told the women in my family
they were the weaker sex.
My grandmothers, worn by the century,
were beautiful, resilient and humane.

My English Gran survived
both husband and the Blitz
and treated those disasters
much the same.

One daughter asked:
'If Hitler comes, what shall we do?'
'Leave him to me,' she said,
'I'll sort the blighter out.'

Mrs Kelly's Miracle

Outside the church, the sweep of playground laughter,
while inside, Mrs Kelly took us round the stations of the cross.
The weekly repetition never softening the narrative's brutality
that ended at the altar rail, and Mrs Kelly's Miracles.

Sundays, the stand up sit down keep moving
of the mass. Dominic was coming with the biscuits
and I was waiting to eat a missare est,
but caught up in the rhythms of the congregation,

chanting the poetry of 'Trespasses',
'Melchisedech', I'd surf the loneliness
of hymns, the wintry elegance of carols,
towards whatever was kept hidden on the altar.


Stephen Morgan swore upon his mother's grave
crossed his heart and hoped to die:
he'd seen a soul ascending into heaven.
A puff of smoke. But then he was an altar boy.

And Gaffney said she went all cold before
the blessed virgin's statue talked to her.
But she was nuts. We met before the church,
eight years old, experts in the supernatural.

If you run widdershins three times round,
the devil will be waiting at the porch.
But we weren't daft: the implications
of his non-appearance were not worth the risk.

The Man in 27B

The blackened kettle front ring right.
Cracked mug beside the biscuit tin.
Remote sits on the right arm of the chair.
Table, bottom left hand corner, TV guide.
For twenty years. Tracks worn into the carpet,
grooves carved by repetition in the air.
My name's the first thing he's misplaced.
His years unravel. A shelf of paperbacks
their titles faded, plot lines mingle, characters migrate.
Dialogues he knew by heart dissolve to nonsense.
A memory of purpose cobwebs the millennia
between phone calls, shopping trips, Christmas cards.


Good will is soon abraded, where
tolerance is theorised indifference.
Their welcome, frail as washing in the dirty air,
or a concrete playground seen

from a fifth floor window. Where
the once bright railings circle
childhood in containment and exclusion.
The menace of broken swings, creaking

in isolation. This is your space.
Don't ask for more, or try to leave
Is it any wonder for our children
resentment's an hereditary disease?

He was a Rock

He was a rock, he was an island. I'd visit
like a Catholic at a Church of England service.
The same passion but his was turning inwards.
His books and poetry would protect him
though records were his preferred insulation.
His God was Dylan, Bob, mine had no name.
The world seemed too untidy for the lyrics of a song
but he could build a conversation from quotations.
I wanted mountains, rivers, knowledge;
he quoted Sartre, 'There are no adventures left.'
Even then I knew rooms were for leaving;
he stayed, confusing eloquence with revelation.


Turn down beside the pub, there was a footbridge here.
It rose up, unexpectedly. Bolted blue grey metal,
wrenching your gaze above the rooftops
to the horizon line, beyond the city boundaries.

She would cross that dirty foot bridge
on the long walk to the station. Beside her, holding hands
or sometimes with my arm around her waist, the world
seemed full of light and possibility.

The bridge is gone. Turn down beside the same old pub.
A narrow lane. A fence that fails to keep the weeds at bay.
The houses, moving in, like thugs in a dark alleyway
and the dim light, and the streets, all going nowhere.

Liam GuilarLiam Guilar has published two collections of poetry including I'll Howl Before You Bury Me (Interactive) and is the author of the online travel book Dancing With the Bear. He lives in Labrador, Queensland.

Topic tags: Coventry, Liam Guilar, Grandmothers, Widdershins. The Man in 27B, Tolerance, He Was A Rock, Bridge



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Existing comments

A strong clear arresting voice. Very satisfying.

Joe Castley | 30 July 2008  

I enjoyed these, especially the last stanza of 'Mrs Kelly's Miracle' and 'the houses, moving in, like thugs in a dark alleyway'. Very evocative. Thanks.

Cathy Altmann | 31 July 2008  

Thank you Liam. I enjoyed these poems very much. I can almost see the subjects - both of them - of 'He Was A Rock'. And when you said "The bridge is gone", well, I could almost have cried for the loss of all that light and possibility. Pity the people who live amongst those thuggish houses and the streets all going nowhere. The past is a good place to visit, I suppose, but to live there would be to risk decaying with it.

Jeffrey Klooger | 04 August 2008  

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