July – Tom Kelly

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Monument

‘Jarrow’s shipyard, Palmers, was closed by the cartel, National Shipbuilding
Securities in 1933 which led to mass unemployment and the Jarrow Crusade of
1936.’

-Jarrow’s MP, Ellen Wilkinson speaking in the House of Commons, 1936

……………..Today is mixed with yesterday,
……………..Pathé News becomes flesh and blood,
……………..men with Charlie Chaplin trousers
……………..return to where they once stood.

In the Jarrow area there is 72 per cent unemployment,
in Jarrow Town the percentage nearly 80.
Jarrow must be made a special case. Jarrow is the victim of ruthless
rationalisation which is being backed by the Government.

……………..Uncle Johnny gave me his badge,
……………..I see him on the Edgware Road,
……………..marching in rain-soaked Mackintosh
……………..and now tears stick in me throat.

…………….They presented their petition,
…………….Jarrow’s Mayor dropped his heavy chain,
……………..Wasn’t defiance, he told me,
……………..It was a slip I’d do again.

Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that the government’s
complacency is regarded throughout the country as an affront to the national
conscience?

………………Some shed bitter tears, railed,
……………..Ya knaa we’ve been sold down th’ Thames.
……………..Has ti be more, can’t be just this.
……………..Is this how our battle ends?

……………..On Guy Fawkes they came home by train,
……………..knowing their place, third class single,
……………..handed them cheap suits and cheers
……………..still their pockets didn’t jingle.

In St Paul’s Cathedral there is a memorial to Sir Christopher Wren, which
reads: “If you seek a monument look around.”
If the Attorney General wants to see a monument to the capitalist system that he
is so proud of, I will take him to Jarrow and show it to him.

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You, You, You

Eileen Blair, nee O’Shaughnessy 1905-1945.

To Richard Blair for reading, ‘You. You. You’ at his mother, Eileen’s grave, in
Jesmond, cemetery, Newcastle upon Tyne, March 29, 2015.

I am thinking of you,
your husband we know,
chiselled in our language.
You are a footnote,
acknowledged in Animal Farm,
no longer reprised.

I see you as a bairn in South Shields,
running into your father’s arms on King Street,
down to the Customs House,
your Dad-King, counting all his money
-tax that wasn’t his.
I hear you squealing, they’re just like black clocks,
at men scrabbling into the Yards.
Your posh-Geordie voice,
moulded by your father’s Irish lilt and mother’s Broad Norfolk.
Skipping down the Lawe,
flicking your wooden top as if it were the world.

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Westoe School: slate and chalk,
learning by rote, six sevens are forty two, seven sevens are forty nine,
the mantra running wild round the school yard walls.
Sunderland High School, there you are on the board:
1923: Eileen O’Shaughnessy.

You are dying alone.
Eric in Paris. You write to him. It fills this page
with my tears. I wring them into a ball.
I see your stillness.

You met at a Parliament Hill cocktail party,
were you at ease? Did you cling to the wall?
Was Eric all smiles and stories?
Men fell in love with you. Your easy way,
‘Irishness’ that captivated them.
He was awkward, gangly. You took over the room.
Is that how it was?

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We have your letters to friends. Your wit and
I see you married. Living on eggs.

I have met your son. I see you in the garden
playing with him before you left.
I read your death certificate’s uneasy, ‘cause of death’.

I am at your grave. It is autumn and leaves
spread themselves like a brocade broach
I imagine you wearing as you raise your eyes
to the blue-grey.

I see you now. In a Spanish restaurant, you are laughing
to heaven. Drinking local rough red wine and spilling it on the wooden table.
Eric’s shot in the neck. You nurse him.

You are proofreading his work,
script editor, cook, bottle washer, wife. And the rest.
You bore it with laughter that split the sky.

I see you now. I hear you now. Feel you beside me. They know Eric.
May they know: You. You. You.

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Both poems will appear in Spelk, Tom’s eighth collection, published by Red Squirrel Press.

 

 

 

 

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