Jo Bell, Cheshire Poet Laureate 2007, wrote the following poems to celebrate the Centenary of Neston Library:


Turning down the Liverpool road we smell marsh salt

and know we’re home. The birds are settling as boats once did

against the silted walls. We see the lights in dark Welsh hills

and wonder, as we did last night, what they’re doing over there.

Over there, they’re heading home along their soft salt-darkened roads

and taking bearings from our English lights; our unknown roads,

estates. Their birds are settling like miners’ ghosts.

They wonder, as they will tomorrow, what we’re doing over here.

Bear Ye One Another’s Burden

A hundred years we’ve hung out welcomes,
built our faith and learning into brick.
We mark the fetes and anniversaries as honestly
as crinkle-crankle walls on hand-drawn surveys.

We read and learn and keep those welcomes fresh;
guide new fingers over charts of dog-walk fields,
sharing names of earthworks long forgotten
before we came here to remember them.

The geese fly in across the map from Ireland,
finding wilder routes above our shrubberies and shops.
For miles the mine shafts poke out curiously
beneath them in the river bed, feeling for the sea.

These winds have taken men to Greenland,
sent out sailors skint and brought them back with silver,
lifted little-bellied boats out of the Dee.
Now they blow us to the Old Quay for a beer.

And that’s no loss. We’ve lived beyond the storm,
survived the slippery economies of fish and pithead.
No longer are we port of call or point of slow departure,
and not a last resort. We’re warmer, safer.

Work and travel, thrift and neighbourhood
have slowly furnished us with self-made landmarks.
Every gain we make is hauled back to the map;
library and market cross, school and chapel, hall.

We greet each other in the lanes by name.
We meet and pass the time by gaslight, marshlight,
moonlight, eating shrimps and counting herons
on the marsh, as fixed as weathervanes.

We lean against each other now like paperbacks
settling to our proper places, making space for others.
We map new gardens, supermarket fascia, change,
but still choose brine for ink to write their names.

We live here like the spaces between words
without which words are meaningless;
building an archive of place and self,
stacking up more welcomes like books on a shelf.

© Jo Bell, Cheshire Poet Laureate 2007