Tuesday Poem: In the First Church of the Socialist Millennium (RIP).

In the First Church of the Socialist Millennium. (RIP)

The First Church of the Socialist Millennium

Was the Blackball Miners’ Hall: where I grew

Up with a Tip Top tub, on Cecile B. De Mille.

And the saints on the wall were black and white

And the saints on the wall were cruel: St Hickey,

St Webb and St Semple, and each one ten foot tall.


The First Wooden Shrine to Socialist Man

Where the thundering rain did fall: where Jaffas

Flew if the shorts got stalled in a Pathe pictorial.

And the saints on the wall could scowl and frown

Till the fiends in the pit did shriek: St Hickey,

St Webb and St Semple, who put us on easy street.


The First Cinema of the Kiwi Bloke to grace

The Marxist table: we knew it was time to yell

“Look out!” when the music warned Clark Gable.

And the saints on the wall could freeze all

Hells the Bosses’ Men had loosed: St Hickey,

St Webb and St Semple, hung the Scabs by a noose.


The First Great Hall of the People by magic could

Also dance: we shone the floor with powder

And sacks, so the dancers could glide like a glance.

And the saints on the wall went green with lust

When whirling sinners swayed: St Hickey,

St Webb and St Semple, libido sublimated.


The First Cathedral of Dancing Proles made

An ancient miner young: if they had no hair

In the Brylcreemed air, their toes were inner sprung.

And the saints on the wall would roll their eyes

And wish for their time again: St Hickey,

St Webb and St Semple, backs to the wall like men.


And the First Round clang of a boxing bell

Would send up rousing cheers: the screen rolled

Back, the ropes in place, bleeding eyes and ears.

And the saints on the wall would long for life

For one more crack at the crown: St Hickey,

St Webb and St Semple, would knock each other down.


And those were the days when workingmen prayed

To a god misunderstood: “if blood be the price

Of your cursed wealth, Good God! We have paid it in full!”

And the saints on the wall came into the hall

And the hall was held in a hush: the projector

Flickered, the orchestra caught the boxer in mid-punch.

And Hickey bowed, and Semple prayed and Webb

He broke the bread: “ Eat the fruits of the Socialist

Church” was the blessing upon our heads.


So every day I sit down to pray in the wreck

Of the Labour Party:  I write a script for a film

That ends when the lunatics run the country.

And the saints on the wall look down on me

With a mixture of love and pity: St Hickey,

St Webb and St Semple, and the Miners’ Hall Committee.

Tuesday Poem

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About paparoa

Writer and researcher.
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4 Responses to Tuesday Poem: In the First Church of the Socialist Millennium (RIP).

  1. Kay Cooke says:

    A rousing poem that carried me along in its history and language. Thank you.

    • paparoa says:

      Hi Kay
      I’m getting involved with a group in Runanga who are trying to restore the famous Miners Hall there – it is in a parlous state. It was a sister hall to the Blackball one my poem celebrates – the old place was actually dismantled by the local committee in the 1980s, in a spiteful act of cultural vandalism, to stop it falling into the hands of the hippies. Sic transit gloria mundi.

  2. Great stuff – rousing stuff – a fantastic snapshot of a time and place – love those ‘saints’ that are ten-feet tall ‘backs to the wall like men’ full of longing, cruelty, pity… wonderful, too, to read some political poetry on TP … thanks Jeffrey! (Btw – Tuesday Poet Harvey McQueen talks about your poem in yesterday’s post on his blog.)

  3. Paparoa says:

    Hi Mary
    Glad you liked it, and thanks for the ref to Harvey’s blog – I’ll check that out. I love it when a political/protest/ballad kind of poem looms. I never invite them, but when they do, it’s fun to go with that kind of passion and see where it leads.
    This arrived after a day’s oral history seminar in the Blackball Workingmens’ Club in 2006, when RNZ’s Spectrum Jack Perkins got a bunch of Blackballites together, from 90 year old Ces McRoberts, engineer, last man out of the mine in 1964 when it was closed (now RIP), to a teen skateboarding newbie who was FOB. Fantastic.
    The talk about the old Hall and the Labour Party’s origins got me going – it’s my hymn to a lost world, gratefully remembered, angrily mourned when I see the Prebble-lite snakeoil salesmen who succeeded and betrayed those ancestors and their dreams of equality. Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell” needs playing about now. Cheers.

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