It could have only been reckless inspiration
that pushed me onto the red bus to Fatherless Barn,
my little pocket note book fizzing with ideas.
I’d bought shelf brackets and NoNails glue
from Dave’s DIY shop in the high street
and as I stepped out the bus pulled up, and I was on.
I sat at the front on the top deck, like a kid again
going solo for the first time, half expecting to see
uncle Dennis sitting on a low wall in old fashioned clothes
waiting for me, three stops up the road: his cigarette
bewildered in his fingers, his eyes lost in grown-up thought,
back from the dead in sunny black and white.
This unusual and ghostly poem from Stephen Clarke deals with a little known place in the region, Fatherless Barn – or, as it was once known, Father Leys Barn. The voice of the poem takes us on an impulsive bus trip to this place, which is not just an area, but also the name of an estate and a church – somewhere in the borderlands between Halesowen and Colley Gate. Once on board the reader is transported to a state of mind where the ghosts of father-like figures (uncle Dennis) return, where the whimsical and hasty attitudes of childhood spring forth, where nostalgia mixes with the now. This is an imagined memory, from a fabricated journey to a place that we may only be able to see in dreams – but no less beautiful and no less rich in this fine poet’s vision.
Netherton born Stephen Clarke is one of the region’s most widely respected poets. As well as having a successful career as a performer and teacher of poetry, his work has been published both nationally and internationally, including Faber and Faber, Offa’s Press and The North.