Tom Kelly – two poems

Dad in Jarrow, 1936

Ower lives scurry down th’ drain,
waa thin shadows run up aa waal.
Night an’ day’s just aa change o’ name.
Now can ye hear th’ bairns bawl?
An’ wi aal knaa that hunga kills.
Granny kneels an’ prays, hor voice shrill,
aa’ve  nevva had aa God ti thank.
Lads an’ lasses in sodden claes

livin’ wi’ th’ smell that is rank,
an’ it clings through these hope-less days:

waa deed, an’ nae one’s had tha fill.


Hope Street Jarrow, 1953

I am in the street.
Mrs Storey’s not below.
Everything’s closed.

Mrs Thompson’s door
always open,
sun running up the stairs
with some errant child,
now locked.

I run to our house.
Door heavy.
Sweat hangs in me hair,
underpants rammed in my arse,
shit running down my six-year-olds legs.

The man with tattoos
springs down the street,
lamp post light running after him.


Tom was born in Jarrow and now lives further up the Tyne at Blaydon. He has had a varied career from his first job in a Jarrow shipyard Time-Office; to a song writing contract and writing the BBCTV musical documentary Kelly, with Alan Price. He has had a great deal of work produced by the Customs House, South Shields, a venue he regards as home, with six full-length stage plays, including I Left My Heart in Roker Park which has been produced four times. Tom’s musicals include: The Dolly Mixtures, Geordie, Tom & Catherine, Dan Dare, The Machine Gunners (all but Geordie written with John Miles). In 2016 he was a runner-up in the Journal Culture Awards, in the Writer of the Year category, for Geordie-The Musical, produced by the Customs House in 2015 and reprised in October 2017 at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle. 2016 also saw his eighth poetry collection Spelk published and subsequently re-printed by Red Squirrel Press. Of late his poetry has appeared in a number of UK magazines and in the anthology Land of Three Rivers-The Poetry of North-East England.  He is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Word, South Shields

Tom Kelly