From Woodside to the Pier Head by ferry
is a mile and a bit on waters
that smell always of mud and oil. Eastwards
is Overton Hill, the sandstone ridgeway –
westwards the Liverpool Bar Lightship,
Liverpool Bay and the Irish Sea,
and, far, far beyond, the widening
Atlantic skies where the weathers are made.
The Saxons named the river – a boundary
between kingdoms – the Vikings the place,
with their numerous settlements on the heights.
Cotton and molasses and slavery
laid its Victorian foundations –
avenues, mansions, slums, alleyways –
a city of barbarism and grandeur.
My grandmother told her stories as
a litany of parables, wonders.
Each July 12th, the Green and the Orange
brawled murderously. Her father captained
a ‘coffin ship’ to Boston – her mother
took to drink. Johnny Flaws, a neighbour,
died in Arizona. Other neighbours
rushed from their houses for Armageddon –
others flitted late at night or early dawn.
The Cast Iron Shore at the Dingle was rust red
with residue from the scrapped, beached hulls.
Many decades ago, when the river
thronged with craft and was polluted, ships,
at midnight each New Year, would blow their horns,
for five minutes or more – a raggedy
wind ensemble of strangers wishing
strangers well. Now, in summer, the docks throng
with translucent, pink-tinged Moon Jellyfish.