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Keith Chandler

Keith Chandler moved to Bridgnorth from Norfolk seven years ago.   Since being selected for Ten English Poets (Carcanet) in 1977, his poetry has been published in four collections: Kett’s Rebellion (Carcanet, 1982), A Passing Trade (OUP, 1991), A Different Kind of Smoke (Redbeck, 2001) and The English Civil War Part 2  (Peterloo Poets, 2009). A new collection, The Goldsmith’s Apprentice, is due to be published in April.

The Goldsmith’s Apprentice


You will change into ‘trashers’, canvas shoes,

when you lock yourself in at eight.

Collecting your strongbox from the safe

it will be weighed.  It will be weighed again

when you clock off at six.

You will sit at a vice with apron attached

to funnel the filed off dust.

You will blow your nose into newspaper

and not put grease in your hair.

Similarly, when you swill your hands

(your lunch box having been inspected)

it will be into this tank of sawdust

into which you will also expectorate.

All these - shoes, clothes, snot, sawdust -

will be burnt off at the end of the month

into a rough bar called an ‘elmer’

worth more than you earn all year.


In return we will teach you to saw and buff;

to solder, blowpipe dangling from your lip

like a forgotten cheroot;

to cast by ‘lost wax method’

rings and brooches, each mould unique

then melted out, weeping fat tears;

to hammer flake so fine

it will float like a feather above your face;

to draw out wire for filigree work

shinier than a girl’s hair, stronger than her love;

to forge, clinging like slinky fingers

to Beauty’s neck, chains so slim

no one but yourself may see the links.

You will breathe this atmosphere of dust

and soft percussion, dying at last

stoop backed, purblind,

your lungs lit up like a golden branch.