A cup of tea at five in The Ale House

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Another poem written and spoken by Bert Biscoe: one where every word should be savoured to appreciate the full thrust and vigour of his message.



A cup of tea at five in The Ale House


Old comrades speak quietly

In shady corners of anonymous bars –

They talk of waiting, biding,

Sitting at the heart of webs

Beside corporate water-butts

Connected by flaking downpipes

To empires, bureaucracies,

Unions, democracies – sadness

Pervading their whispers,

They turn to inspect over shoulders

Shop-girls before their buses

Taking cocktails and cosmetics

To wash away the taste of servility,

The rudeness of consumption

And conflict bred by ‘the great bargain’

Between income and time –

They stride on patent heels

In pencil skirts, turning heads

And beguiling demons of escape

To sink salvation to a ring

And rosemary proposal – we hush

Our murmurs of revolution,

Incitement, promotion, subversion,

For fear of being overheard –

We know the risk of night-club gossip

In mysterious and distant corners

That gleans our knot and extends

Lacquered scarlet nails to pick

And undo, for the networks

Which fester in loneliness and curiosity

And their jackboot, a rapping glove

And bayonet, the herding, the wire…

To the splintered door and mind,

For nothing more than a turn

Of phrase, a glance across the table,

An idle thought on the worst of days,

And doubts, always kindled

By fear and jealousy – but we go on,

We replenish our cups,

We remain when buses have departed,

And music returns to claim the night;

We lend an ear to murdered ballads

Strangled in tuneless throats

And strain to catch a bedroom tune

Reversing towards the soul

Whilst bears and apes down their ale

And curdle brains in alcohol

And pirates bawl rebellions

Of martyrs, mates and mariners,

And slowly turn the capstan

Which clicks the compass home

Around the waking clock – old friends

In shadows, power and influence

At the service of nation,

And nation prone, inert, weary,

Tossing injustice and spinning coins,

Lying awake beyond the lights,

Beyond the owl, and hearing

Only claws and whiskers

Searching for inspiration

In the tunnels, between bins,

In the rub of shame and pride

Where resistance begins, where partisans

Mark out camps and move

Amongst the trees, and quietly

Patient minds sit tight,

Content to wait and watch,

To see what stillness sees –

The time must come,

Ambition and stasis rub

Sticks together over stones

Of self between impatient knees –

To belong is not the song

Of mercenaries, communion

With yews and stones,

With garlic bones and memories,

These are things of childhood

Which grey and lengthen, strands

Of manes, thatches of identity

Which burn between executives

And labourers from the bench

And slate to the lychen gate,

And roar at rugby in revolution

Until the penny corrodes the eye

And haunting gulls, souls

Of the dead, on muscular wings,

Snatching crusts and cones,

And, flying low in screeched revenge,

Terrorise weekends, divebomb pastries,

Howl from lamposts, muster over ploughs,

And, in open landfill wounds,

Gather confidence and garbage

To convince, persuade and hasten

The end of apes, of bipedal dominance

And estuarial waters under caps

And ribbons, the widows’ weeds

Of city and town, of republic and crown –

From the bar she steps

To gather empties and wipe

Our conspiracy from her table,

The damp cloth sweeping drops

And smears, crumbs and flakes.

We stand and swear in silence,

For we each know love

In a different way, not for heart

Or hand, but rather, for our Land –

A passion draped in nation,

A line from a song, a tripwire

Of explosion in early thought

That here, and only here,

Is the only one of all the places,

All the tangles of myth

And superstition, of epitaphs

And banners, all the consolation

And inspiration, all the cliffs

And moors can give – this is our land

And we must prevail – even as

The hammer strikes

Calvary’s nail and screams

Penetrate soundproof walls of heaven

To momentarily awake

The old wizard and his boy-king

From the deepest sleep of pain –

We know we will come to whisper

In the dark corner, hidden under

Shopgirl gossip from microphones

And paranoia – and we’ll tell ourselves

‘Not long now! Something


Eventually must change – soon

It will be summer, then winter,

And plucking on the string of order,

Then it will be ours, Spring,

And the time to pull the sword,

To rise on the red-legged crow,

To rouse the horde with a single word –

Then clench our fist and O!


Into the teeth of the howling storm

Cry ‘Kernow! Kernow bys vykken!’

And shout from Hellfire Corner,

Shout from Morwenstow, Rame, 

Lizardh, Zennor – shout our name,

Till doors fly ajar and the scorer

Marks ‘Won!’ across his page –

Then shall begin our Cornish Age!’


More of Bert’s Cornish themed poems can be found on this site by making a word search on his name.


Bert Biscoe

Vyager gans Geryow (Bert Biscoe) lives in Truro. He is a poet and songwriter whose work draws on his interest in history, politics, social justice and language. For many years he represented the people of Boscawen Division on Cornwall Council. The Division was formerly called ‘Moresk’ – an unbroken link from civic administration to the hurried escape of Tristan and Iseult from the vengeful wrath of King Mark – Bert tries to invest Cornish values into the demand of modern life. His work is fun, and best read aloud – which he does whenever the opportunity arises, especially with fellow Cornish poet, Pol Hodge. ‘Living in Trurra’ he says. ‘Means that there is a constancy of running water beneath your feet – there are two clocks which ring the hours dissonantly and out of step – a good environment for poems to flourish in the cracks and shadows. Nowadays, the mullet listen attentively in the lee of the Old Bridge’.


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