Thought I’d write up this short poem by the little known Newcastle poet George Charlton (b.1950) because I can’t find it anywhere online. I think this was published in 1980; I found it in the anthology Ten North East Poets, which is the first anthology that Neil Astley edited and published for Bloodaxe Books.
(for J.J. Wells)
There must be hundreds like us now,
Born since the war, brought up
In terraced streets near factory yards
And on expensive council estates.
We were the ones who stayed on at school
in academic quarantine. Others
Took apprenticeships in the skilled trades,
And left us indoors to finish homework.
And we didn’t notice it at first –
All the literature that wasn’t written
For us: passing an exam
Was an exercise in its own right.
To live like Spartans, think like monks
Had something heroic about it . . .
Now we dress carefully, and at
Introductions in expensive restaurants
Suppress the local accent in our voice,
Not to give ourselves away.
And little by little we go home less
To parents who seem to have fostered us:
We are like those bankrupt millionaires
With our own social-success stories
And personal failures. Remaindered
Fashions at give-away prices.