Tom Kelly, 'You, You, You' – the poem

You, You, You
Eileen Blair, née O’Shaughnessy, 1905-1945.
By Tom Kelly

 

I am thinking of you,

your husband we know,

chiselled in our language.

You are a foot note,

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. His Irish brogue lilts and thick

as ships on the Tyne.

I hear you squealing, “They’re just like black clocks,”

at men scrabbling into the Yards.

Then skipping down the Lawe,

flicking your wooden top as if it were the world.

Your posh-Geordie voice,

moulded by your father’s brogue and mother’s Norfolk charm.

 

Westoe School: slate and chalk,

scraping, clanking the wooden tattooed desk,

learning by rote: “six sevens are forty two, seven sevens are forty nine,”

voices running 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

as 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.

Eric was awkward, gangly. You took over the room.

Is that how it was?

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 see 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.

 

I see you proof reading 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.

 

© Tom Kelly