David Armstrong: From 'Judas Jon':
Mind’s restless engine toils without respite
In metal shavings shredding nerves
And thrusts me towards collapse inside as,
Through the window of the garret eves,
Darkness starts to overlay the world
With a thick grey blanket of rough cloth
While underneath I pace the room,
Pace my mind in shadows barred,
A mad, caged wolf that prowls the floor
And wears a darkened hole in boards
Until a sudden change of pace:
Willy-nilly in a back-brain trance
I’m suddenly outside, and wander streets—
Or should I say the streets are wandered for me—
As on an old and battered hulk
Steered by an errant drunken bum
Who tramps the seas in his disgrace,
And cannot guide by compass, chart or pole;
So rudderless I sail past buildings—surreal rocks—
Till in a disturbed Dali canvas I fetch up,
Not to drooping watches or spindly limbs,
But marooned on the outskirts of a paranoiac-critical town,
Unstable, friendless, where nothing can assure;
And where, once more driven by my piston legs,
I stalk insane through funnelled crowds,
Scope out each character with narrowed eyes,
Crosshatch their features with blackened thought,
Then smudge them to obscurity—
To ghost-train pop-ups with Bacon facial twists
From the palette of an infant’s played-with food,
As from their feral throats they mutter threats
In guttural Russian tones. Fogbound
They loom, recede, then once more loom again.
From 'The Queen of Sheba's Pool''
The subdued evening's syllables · mesmerically sound
In the dreamlike drums of the Ark · through the distant mist
Where buzzards still ballet · and beneath the blue-grey
Of the steely sky · camels, straw-heavy, are led
To the wells where · she bathed and wondered
At the words of the wisdom · which parted the waters
And produced princes and kings · anointed with prudence:
A line leading through love · to the light beyond time.
Full versions of the above poems can be found in the Firebird Press anthology, Resurgence.
Draft work by David Armstrong in pdf format::
Cut passages from 'Judas Jon'
David has over the years travelled extensively and worked in many fields (sometimes literally), his favourite occupations having been freelance writing and managing writers’ groups. He turned to poetry only after retirement through a serious illness caught abroad, as both a therapy and a chance to contribute to what he considers the key literary form.
His chief influences include the English poet and artist William Blake, the American Beat poet, musician and lyricist of The Grateful Dead, Robert Hunter, and the Russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky, all of whom he believes have tapped into the truth at the roots of human existence. At the moment he is readingTwentieth Century Greek poets, the reason why his lockdown project was to study modern Greek. He is also currently finishing his first two books of poetry, The Worthwhile: Selected Travel Verse and Other Poems and Crossings: Five Poems Written in Georgia. One piece from each of these is in the current Firebird Press anthology, Resurgence. He intends learning several ancient languages as research for his final volume, Paradox, which he hopes to complete in five years’ time (if he’s still alive).
One particular argument he has with the present zeitgeist is against its insidious ageism, whether in the publishing world or Western society in general.