Tom Kelly

Jarrow Tube Works

At eight on a grey morning,

I’m walking over a metal bridge

heading to work at Jarrow Tube Works,

before the World Cup of ’66:

images we know by heart.

I am the only one on the bridge as it booms,

my feet a drummer’s foot pedal.

I work as a Progress Chaser in a Portacabin

inside the Tube Works.

The huge furnace gash shocks me

every time I see and feel it.

Men drag billets of steel

on wires dangling above them,

wearing hand-me-down clothes

worn at weddings and funerals life-times ago.

They tie-up their trouser bottoms.

Some wear bright neckerchiefs,

looking exotic, I think at the time.

The furnace heat hits me and stumbles through

my brown corduroy trousers,

I check to see if I am burnt:

in a way I am.

Unspoken Lives in Dreams

Dad’s brushing the dockside in 1934,

broken pallets pile-up to the rats’ nest,

they squeal as he moves closer to them.

They jumped, he said, at his neck;

they were aiming for the light to escape, like yourself.

I am behind a huge desk, becoming bigger

in this anxiety dream.

For a while I was won over by Friday night brown envelopes,

pound notes tempting under the cellophane.

Years passed, dead slowly. Days were longer.

He has high ambitions, climbs the company ladder,

the firm disappears to the Far-East.

His unsteady climb falters, defeats and victories are etched in his face

as he scrambles even quicker in the next job,

years gallop to the horizon.

‘A contented man’, I thought.

For him life crumbled before his eyes,

birthdays and celebrations would not stop,

left him unhappy. He never said.

Not even a note in his car with the engine running.

Tom Kelly © 2021