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.
I used to dream a lot, or; The Snooker Poem
but now I don’t much, not anymore. I find myself bowed over a snooker table,
______getting beaten fairly,
carefully. A hushed gallery climbs around me, dense with the mute dust of
I’m tacked with sweat to the wooden rail, fingers curled around the cushions,
______unable to speak
so I loll a heavy glance at the referee, first squinting into the glare then eyes
White-gloved with one arm bent behind his back, he just seizes the cue-ball,
then returns to its spot. Then I’m watching a dreamer feather the white ball, cue
______meeting, and withdrawing,
meeting, and withdrawing, like the slow horse head dips to drink its own
emerging, then returning, beyond the reflection to some other place where
______shock click knock
echoes as a lapping tongue over still white water and chalk dust rises from the
______green nap to retire
in mist, silently, out of respect. Above, the table tapers to an odd perspective like
______a surreal crucifixion; a TV camera
finds an audience member sleeping and we take a long look at his dim face. He
______awakes when applause
spreads like news of a strike. The coloured planets resume their clicked echo
______drop, and the fated
referee’s ferry knocks against its mooring with every traveller counted out
______aloud to the pocketed
night: the cursed boatman’s droning oath. Paralysed now, seated, elbows bonded
______to my knees, cue
between my palsied hands in prayer resting cold on my forehead, I see my
______varnished eye grey,
distant, it blinks like the eyes of dusked penumbral doves or studio light
______shadow faces roosting
and coughing. The Great Referee constellation is motionless, a star for each
he unfurls his prophesy from buffed coils in the black: the foretold sweep of the
______television satellite, how it will
trace an arc from one white glove to the other, and how I will watch someone
______else’s dream in silence, out of respect.
for Sam Hanner
I waded into the shallows and passed my hand through
the water’s skin to pick up what I thought
was an old binocular lens, fallen from some ship
or washed up from some other beach.
It shimmered then popped clear from the sea
like an amniotic sac – not a lens but sea glass
polished convex and rounded by the tide,
and I realised for the first time
I was not the moving water
but the cloud of sand curling beneath it.