Tom Kelly

from Geordie

Geordie is a working class voice often talked about but rarely heard. This poem looks through his eyes as we see the changing face of the north-east. Geordie has worked over forty years in engineering, witnessed highs, lows, redundancy and their impact upon him, his family and community.

Geordie’s been at the works for twenty years,
it’s closing, going to China.
He packed the factory away,
wooden crates, machinery coffins.
The young ones started getting other jobs,
he was the skeleton staff.
Production stopped:
silence hummed day and night shifts.
He found a cubby-hole,
got his head down,
nobody bothered him.
The Foreman asked him if he fancied China?

He cherished his tools,
measuring everything to a thousandth.
Dreamed about getting it right,
woke sweating,
fell asleep in front of the telly.
Broke his heart seeing tools rattling in skips,
throwing your life away,
eyes glinting with precise memories.

The Management said,
‘Finish when ye like,’
he didn’t like,
stayed another month.
He was going to leave Friday,
but lost heart.
The Security Man
didn’t know him
walking out the gate on Tuesday,
severance money and pension
in the post.

The Foreman said,
‘Aa’ve known ye years.’
Geordie had a better way of saying it,
hate would have featured.
Never said,
‘Aa’ve been a good worker’,
‘kept this place going’,
‘lost only two days work in years’,
‘been here when you were dying.’

Just said,
‘leave when ya finished’.
He left with lead weights
in his head.
He told his wife,
she cried
for what the Foreman didn’t say.

He wonders where it’s gone,
strong beer helps regret.
Not bothered about eating,
long as he gets a few pints
over the dozen.
He finds excuses to go to the bar,
somebody said,
‘See aa god about aa man.’
‘What happened?’
Failing light
on golden moments
he hoped for.

Tom Kelly © 2007