Poet and writer Stephen Seabridge, Poet Laureate for Stoke-on-Trent in 2018, was commissioned to write a series of poems about the Barracks and it’s past.

Stephen took inspiration from the voice recorded interviews and book that was written about the history of the Barracks.

The poems were put in to book format and were included In the project Lucky Bags.

Click a number to view poem

The Bricks:
What Stone Sees

We are the eyes
in the walls
we absorb
the sight
of rolling seasons
the sound of voices
echoing from one
workshop to the next

we remember
the time before
the Barracks
before the
setting of brick
on stone
on foundation

we recall the fields
flush with daisies
long grasses
forests where now
there is flats
deer roaming
and the pounce
the paw
of the wolf

just was we remember
the churned pots
shaped and glazed
fired in rooms
dripping rain

just as we remember
the soldiers
drilling in the yard
their steps
ringing on the cobbles
the glint of their pins
in the sun
their voices young
then old.

In the morning, when they switch
on the lights, they contend
with the crammed corners:
the odd boxes of buttons
and pegs, mismatched;
the carrier bag bulging
with carrier bags, pea green,
harsh market pink,
some white, some torn,
some discarded on a bucket
of marbles, Legos, bottle caps,
the odd arms of old toys;
above it the red ribbon; gold ribbon;
spooled, burgundy lace
of old curtains; squares of chiffon,
velvet, denim; old jeans torn
and cut out, buttons scavenged;
stacked strips and sheets of paper,
all colours, curling at the corners
on shelves and cluttered desks
surrounded, on all sides, by
cardboard towers threatening a fall;
and there, at the bottom of it all,
faint and small, something scurrying.
Before Goose Street

Before the Barracks,
before the road, the street,
the bustling bus station,
the traffic grind in grey drizzle,

there is a summer morning,
a warm, dusty breeze
and the sound of a girl and boy,
brother and sister,
running the old dirt road,

passing black-spotted cows
and snuffling, pink pigs
as the honking cries
of seagulls sounded overhead.

They have run the woodlands,
oak and fir and fern slapping leaves
against their ankles, their steps
disturbing bees into buzzing frenzy,

the girl has spotted deer and buck
fleeing the sound of brittle branches
snapping underfoot, the boy has glanced
the angry tops of red amanita

and both have imagined the sharp,
wet mouth of howling wolves,
their sunlit teeth close behind
as they run.
Blotter King

On his throne
he surrounds himself
with the tools
of the wending words,

charcoal and sheets
of fine, rolled parchment,
papyrus shaded
and preserved with glass,

fluted jars of ink, black,
scarlet, jade, brown
like the spinning seed
of a sycamore tree.

He layers himself in letters,
and when they ask him
for another of his spellworks,
he smiles out the word, blotter.
The Trout in the Archway

For hours he’s lain,
slumped in the archway
under the sky, the night
blue and moody,

after the cloudy afternoon,
the festival fanfare,
when they left him,
those gentle, human hands
that painted his scales

twisted the thin metal
of his body into shape,
and coated his tissue skin
in glue and paint and glue again.

He listens to the sounds
of the passing traffic,
the sleeping city
quiet under the stars,

and hears the sharp squeal
of a fox out digging bins,
then the scurrying shuffle
of the rats following suit.

He listens, until midnight,
when he lifts and hovers
under the archway, gazing
at the lampposts as he sheds

his paper shell, gold button eyes,
the fraying red ribbons
sewn into his tail and fins,
all falling away as he rises

up into the blue of the night,
toward the winking dots of space,
no longer a papier-mâché fish
but more, in flight, passing

through the nebula of the Dog,
and teasing the tail of the Cat star,
twined like a pale loop
around the eye of the Moon.
18 and 16

By day
he is a shadow

a gloaming patch
in a bright corridor

a shimmer of air
and breathe

hidden to the eye
and mirror.

By day
he is smelt

warm boot polish
and brushed leather

fabric scrubbed
with summer grass

dry mud
and dusty pollen,

the night falls

and there he is

in his uniform
gun ready

guarding the stair
between 18 and 16

his boots shined

the floorboards
through the night.

how he stares at you

when you pass
his sacred stair

his eyes dead
and undying.
The Ship in the Barracks Window

The sailors wait for the moon,
their pale scythe on a sunless sea,
waves and whales passing by
the ship’s port side as it carves
through oceans of roiling,
puckered glass.

They have been placed, glued,
soiled shirts stitched small,
masts varnished, the barrels on the deck
stippled and poked with cocktail sticks,
licked with the light end
of the paintbrush.

All day the yellow sun
blazes through their glass cage,
shines their still, salty faces
until they glow, brass and porcelain,
their sails white and full without wind,
the bow pointed to the window,
ready for the road outside
and beyond.
Grandma’s Corner

She sits in the dark warmth of her corner
with the fire going, orange light
tickling the black walls of the fireplace.

She sits in her high-back, faded armchair,
the fabric above its legs slowly giving way
to time, to the knock of her feet as she shuffles by.

She sits by the windowsill, blinds half-mast,
or she stands, dusting around her small ornaments,
a bronze Scotty Dog, a clear class paperweight,

or she is in the poky kitchen, chopping onions,
potatoes, leeks, small slices of beef, all for the pot,
all ready to fill her rooms with their fume.

Wherever she is, she looks up at the noise
of a passing plane, or an engine backfiring
and, thankful for the simple, she smiles.


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