A SHORT HISTORY

For a generation, like weather cocks,
their skeletons swung near the highway.
James Price and Thomas Brown had robbed the Mail.
Years turned. The Gowy flooded and the heath
flowered. Travellers noted the bones
hanging in chains by the Warrington road.
Justices ordered the gibbet removed,
the remains disposed of. In Price’s skull,
while Napoleon was crossing the Alps
or Telford building bridges or Hegel
defining Historical Necessity
or Goya painting Wellington’s portrait,
a robin made its nest.

 

 

Note: first published April 2009.

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FOLLOWING THE CHAIN

The photograph could have been taken anywhere

they forged the Royal Navy’s anchor chains –

Dudley, Newcastle, Ponypridd or here

in Saltney, Chester, reclaimed marshland

near the river. Wherever the Sea Lords chose

to give the contract the chain makers

and their families moved – like funfair folk

or circus people – if they were able.

 

There are thirteen men in the picture – a shift

about to go on judging by the spotless

faces, arms and hands.

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LIVERPOOL, 3RD MAY 1941

This is one of the great public, civic

spaces of the world – the museum,

the library, the gallery, the court house,

Wellington’s column, the Steble fountain,

the Empire Theatre, Lime Street Station,

St George’s Hall,  St John’s Gardens, vistas

of the river, the Wirral, the Welsh hills…

 

During the worst raid of the Liverpool Blitz

the museum was set ablaze – a bomb,

one of so many, supposedly

for the docks, that razed history, neighbourhoods.

My grandmother,

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THE RULES OF THE GAME

I had my first hair cut when I was three.

(I had been tricked, bamboozled, farfirt).

My grandpa took me to his barber’s –

redolent with banter and tobacco smoke –

near the junction of Cricklewood Lane

and Finchley Road. It was frequented

by his card playing cronies. I watched him

have his hair trimmed and some strands combed over.

I was invited to try the high chair

but, no sooner there, I was begowned

and the scissors flashed.

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‘EAST END GIRL DANCING THE LAMBETH WALK’: BILL BRANDT, 1939

He’s set it up, of course. Or, rather, framed it.
There’d be no feigning this young woman’s delight
in being ‘free and easy’ and doing
‘as you darn well pleasy’. She’s got her best blouse on,
with shoulder puffs, her sister’s shoes, which fit her now,
black ankle socks and shoulder length, unpermed hair
freshly washed – and waved, probably with Kirby grips.
Doin’ the walk, she lifts the hem of her skirt,
revealing her slip – and smiles coquettishly.

Beside her is a line, a queue almost of
female acolytes.

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