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Peterloo – a new poem

Submitted by on December 7, 2016 – 1:59 pmNo Comment

People use the collections of the lovely Working Class Movement Library for all sorts of reasons. It’s freely open for everyone to visit. A poet called Oliver Lomax went in recently to read some of the Library’s eye-witness accounts of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. He is now generously sharing his resulting poem:

Peterloo

I beg you will endeavour to preserve the most
perfect silence. Put your hand to the ground and
take its pulse.

The time of the martyr is at your feet. A climate
of angels lying low in a buried world, fragment
seeds of liberty,

sixpences of bone spent for us. This is the archaeology
of the heart, be meticulous with it and know that
their ballad is in your blood.

Their cries still rent the air outside the room
where The Sex Pistols played, outside the rooms
chasing Michelin stars,

where borough mongers and their abettors from
an umbilical distance away severed the contract
of the heart.

As hussars’ sabres cut the seams of heaven
and bled down on to the field a holy alliance,
not to be petitioned by prayer.

A flock that had drawn from the four corners of the
North West, a forest of men, women, children and liberty
cut down, made to buckle in its bloom.

The ball in their right breast a Tory sphere
that still orbits the poor today as they rust in a
half-life harbour.

Eclipses the truth on bedroom tax suicides and
blots out the sun on the homeless wards. All evidence
must be received, we are all the body of John Lees.

Look up two hundred years and see time like
a mirage, the ghosts of us, hold their dreams aloft
like something new born.

And let us sit beside poverty, have a word in its ear.

Say, listen ‘We are here’.

O Lomax

Peterloo kerchief

Detail from Peterloo commemorative kerchief in the Library collection – photo by Chris Cheetham

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