Archive for 2010

TRIGGER AT THE ADELPHI HOTEL, LIVERPOOL, MARCH 1954

For Alex Cox



This is the year Dien Bien Phu falls,

Algeria rises, segregation is

ruled illegal in the USA,

the first kidney is transplanted and UK

wartime food rationing finally ends.

Lime Street was filled with thousands of boys and girls,

gathered to greet the singing, celluloid,

Born Again cowpoke, Roy Rogers (erstwhile

Leonard Slye), and his entourage – combining

a promo tour with a Billy Graham

crusade. The youngsters, pinched with cold on that

blitzed and windy street, clutched their copies

of the Roy Rogers Cowboy Annual.

Those with seafaring dads – and there were ships

filling the Mersey then and its docks –

had something from the Sears catalogue

of Roy Rogers’ Gifts: boots, guitar, holster,

ersatz buckskin fringed shirt. (Roy and his wife, Dale,

had been mobbed in London, fringes ripped from

the genuine article). But Roy and Dale

were in bed with ‘flu in their Adelphi suite –

so Trigger trotted the route alone,

climbed the hotel steps, made his mark at

reception, entered the residents’ lounge,

visited his master’s bedroom and appeared

at a first floor window for a photo op.

But was it Trigger or, his double,

Little Trigger? And which rears on its hind legs

stuffed in the Roy Rogers’ Museum,

Branson, Missouri, the ‘Show Me’ state?

Or is either or both with Roy and Dale –

and Bullet, the dog, of course – alive, well and

moseying along on the moon’s dark side?

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THE SUBURBS OF FOLLY

OR CARE IN THE COMMUNITY


People new to the neighbourhood soon notice,

rising from one of the walled gardens

or the terraced yards, an occasional

bird call – wood pigeon or even cuckoo?

Distracted by the previous owners’ always

doubtful detritus, it takes them longer

to realise the sounds are human though

of indeterminate age and gender.

Exchanging a Victorian madhouse

for a gentrified Victorian suburb,

making ambiguous bird noises rather

than rocking to and fro in the urine-stink

must be better – but no less sad, no more

purposeful, still unconscionable.

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HERONS IN THEIR HABITATS, LOVERS IN THEIR LIVES

'The Heron Hunt', Eugene Fromentin 1820-1876

i

A heron – self-motivated, self-contained, aloof – stands,

between a potted phormium and a wooden Buddha,

on the roof of a houseboat on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam,

two metres or so from passing cyclists on the embankment

and the nervous tourists queuing for Anne Frank’s house.

ii

A heron – undisturbed, unconnected, elsewhere – perches securely

on a fallen oak beside a Cheshire pond near the motorway,

and the cargoes and the cars bound for the docks

slow almost imperceptibly as they pass.

iii

A heron wades at the water’s edge by Beaumaris pier: an accomplished,

stilt-walker’s strides – elegant, certain, considered, entertaining.

The setting sun casts our close shadows on the planking.

In the distance, cloud shadows cross Snowdonia.

And we say, as we always say, ‘This is so beautiful’:

its disparateness; the stillness of the air; the calm of the straits;

the prism of colours; the indifference of the heron…

which, suddenly and hugely, takes to the air, calling, calling…

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LOCAL AUTHORITY

The rain was heavy.  The road was slurred

with cow muck and clay. I slowed

then stopped the car as a straggle of cows

swayed round the bend in the lane.

Large, wild eyes caught me – dry, warm

and listening  to a string quintet –

on County Council business.

One of the beasts, sashaying to a

milky music, nudged a wing mirror askew.

Dense hedgerow became sky of enduring grey.

The elderly cowman plodded at the rear. He too

eyed the public servant lounging to an adagio.

I acknowledged his enigmatic gesture

and adjusted the mirror.

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NOT ANYTHING TO SHOW MORE FAIR

'Westminster Bridge', Canaletto, 1746



A league from Hoole is Westminster Bridge,

Ellesmere Port. Like Wordsworth, I composed on it.

The brick replica replaced the level

crossing, after the Borough had built

the Civic Hall in the boom time: Shell, Vauxhall,

overspill estates – a working class city.

Jobs went, the bridge stayed, no one made jokes.

The high street, strait, terraced, encompassed

all: Big Mac and sometimes on Sundays

Russian sailors window-shopping. Before me,

framed by the TSB and the Loyalist

Club lay the M53: beyond,

the Mersey – silent, still.

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