Being Waspish – a poem by Roger Elkin

Being Waspish        


… our neighbour said right from the start,

No good will come of it.

By “it” she meant billeting the Yanks

in Stannard’s shirt-mill, where they bunked up

between the greasy reek of stilled machines

and the cotton-bales piled high.


That was the third year of the war,

that year our railings went for the war-effort

and like her son never came back.

The time of black-outs, with gas-lamps unlit

and the nightly Luftwaffe raids

droning overhead to Manchester and Liverpool,

one plane crash-landing on the Moor,

wing-bits and photographs of Billy Brown

with trophied goggles on show in the bobby’s-shop.


It was that time, too, of weekly ARP dances,

and, for sure, those GIs were having the time

of their lives judging how the Methodists –

Primitives and Wesleyans – united in their chinwagging

as the Yanks be-bopped, jitterbugged and smooched

the night away with the mill-girls,

then traded favours for fags, gum and stockings;

our neighbour japing, Don’t get owt for nowt.


And was right again.


Evidence: that clutch of GI kids

filling prams the next Spring,

their Afro-Carib faces so out-of-place –

the real sting in the tail –

in our waspy town.


© Roger Elkin