James Roberts (British Working Class Poetry)

James Roberts is a poet from Bradford who made Glasgow his home four and a half years ago. His poems up to now have explored the social and physical geography of cities he has lived in, addressed the themes of bar work and grief, and have documented both the Catalan Independence referendum of 2017, and the English-French border crisis in Calais and beyond. His first collection, Fragments is available from Glasgow publisher Speculative Books.



Back Home in Bradford

December 2022

Old warmth and cold beer
meet in the foggy gloom.

The hound nuzzles
patches of melting snow
that mottle his favourite pissing ground

and the crystals change state

as they meet his hot breath.

The three of us sidle through the darkness
duck in and out of glowing orange pools
cast down by the council lamps.

You and I swig, and chat
about whether it has been two years
or four since we last met at Christmas.

Of your life at the seaside now
and mine in the high flats.
Of all we have missed.

Perfect 3pm triangles
of winter sunshine
turn the scrubbed
sandstone golden.

Wedding guests mill
in the light outside
that old nightclub
turned banqueting hall.

They smile and chat in the car park
on this bank holiday in lieu
by the road that is busy
for a weekday afternoon.

Oh the strangeness is still here!
but there is relief from all the doom.

The Bat and Ball

Glasgow, 2022.

“See that?”

“Been that way for twenty years, so it has”

Punctuated with a gesture
towards the unlit path, pitch black
where, in the winter months
you can't see your hand in front of your face after three.

“See that?”

“Been that way for twenty years, so it has”

Pointing to the vacant land
strewn with bedsteads and rusted metal
odds and ends,
dotted with with sickly yellow lumps

of asbestos tile.

“See that?”


“Been like that for twenty years, so it has”

Waving towards
the rotten fencing
that is split and splintered,
and has two inch nails sticking from it.

“And have you spoken up? Got together and complained?”

“Aye, me, Davey, Cathy, Rab; again and again
                                  we care about our bit
                                                 we love it”

“But see the Housing? See the council?
Do you you know what they love?

“They love to play
                         the and bat and ball game”

Their Commonwealth

Their Commonwealth
Is glint of gold,

the wink of jewels

and soaring rich fanfares.

Their Commonwealth
Is equality
built on deep foundations

of inequity.

Their Commonwealth
Is a few pockets

filled deep

and many left empty.
Their Commonwealth
Is extract, trade,
profit from,

on a loop.

Their Commonwealth
Is a wireless crackled,
tea stained, sound effect

over bleeding heart patronage .

Their Commonwealth
Is the rap-a-tat-tat,
before your door frame splinters.

Their Commonwealth
Is being shoved

onto a budget flight in handcuffs
under armed guard.

Their Commonwealth
Is being taken
from your home and left
in a place that never was.

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