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—

finally caught.

 

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.  

 

Work-

                                  wrought iron

                                                                                    man.

 

Grieve-

                                    rock dove

                                                                                     son.

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.


The Open Issue cover image

This piece was published in ‘The Open Issue,’ the Fall 2013 issue of CV2.

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