UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Tommy McGhee, Corby Works by John Burnside

He had been there since '55,
his lungs thick with smoke
and urea, the wicks of his eyes
damp, like the walls
of the furnace he tended for years,
till they laid him off.
He'd thought he would be glad
to say goodbye;
but that last shift, walking away
with the cold flask and rolled-up newspaper
tucked in his coat,
he turned to the sudden black
where the ovens had been:
wet slag, and frost on the tracks
and the last sacks of by-product
shipped out to beet-farms
and landfill.
With severance pay
and two years to go
till his pension,
he'd money enough
to survive;
but he hated to see himself
idle, a man on his own,
his wife dead, his grandchildren grown
and moved away.
He rarely saw his son;
though, once, in a bar
on the Beanfield, he found him
sitting alone with The Mirror:
Natalie Wood had drowned
in the ocean, near Catalina,
a hint of champagne
on her breath, and the longtime
child star's bewildered smile
a memory now, as she stared up
out of the picture
and both of them, father and son,
remembered how, long ago,
they had almost
loved her, miming that song
about time
through her immigrant smile
that neither could disbelieve
as hard as he tried
– somewhere, a time and a place –
since there had to be something.