Tyne & Wear Criminal Gallery, 1871-1873
This poem won Third place in the 2013 2-Day Poem Contest
Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums
Roman, Kirk, Grieveson, Workman, others.
In for thieving. For false pretenses. For more thieving:
money, boots, a donkey, another donkey, more boots
and clothing. Their own coats (buttons all missing) pinned
on freak diagonals. Tweed coat stretched untenably across
a growing boy’s stuttering and unfixtured chest.
For the record, they’ve never been photographed before.
But you can see that.
Old John Roman
(with his conqueror’s name and his rococo sideburns)
hasn’t had the art to compose himself. His eyes
are like Hadrian’s wall upon the moor, a candid ruin.
No. Rather, they’re like the space the wall
had wanted to contain.
Ann Kirk: two months in Newcastle Gaol
for stealing. Doughy, and an ancient thirty,
she is—says the sententious photograph—
John Grieveson served four months in Newcastle
for a pigeon-stealing gambit. His necktie settles into
his waistcoat, its own maculate quail. The photo
is lightly vignetted, and Grieveson is listed as a clerk:
born in the city, grey-eyed, single and twenty-one.
Ellen Workman, just eleven, she’s a hard one. She
could be sitting for the constable or flying on a trapeze.
Sent down by the magistrate for thieving iron
with Rosanna from over the road, her eyes
show a relish for her seven days’ hard labour.
No worse than the work I been doin’ for me mam.
Neon now, the figures (scrubby girl / spare man /
scrubby boy / spare woman) flicker around the solid things
that were not theirs. Two bob. Wool coat. Rank leather.
New linen. (Roman.) Three rabbits. (Kirk.)
Silver watch. Good shirt. Black boots.
Published online June 28 2013.
This poem was a winner in CV2’s annual 2-Day Poem Contest. Every April, CV2 challenges players to create a new original poem that uses all 10 words of our choosing. It’s poetry under pressure for prizes, publication, and personal bests. Learn how to sign up for the next 2-Day Poem Contest.