… 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