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Sunday, 7 October 2012

Dockers' Umbrella by Copland Smith

'They should never have knocked it down,'
he'd say. The Overhead
ran from the docks down-town

out past the Pier Head.
Back then: dock gates, guards,
corner pubs, damaged cargo trade.

Now: Stand-alone pub. Men playing cards.
Talking blue and red. Pause
between hands and words

as I come in. Side door.
'All rice mace?'
What can I do yew for?'

Talk and crib restarts - a spate
of noise. 'Brown and bitter.'
Purples and yellows from stained lead-lights

glow in reflection
as I hold up the glass.
'May as well drink it - won't get any better.'

It's a priest, fresh from Mass,
solid as stout in his working gear,
raising a Guinness. 'Cheers.' 'God bless.'

The silence tastes of stale beer,
smoke. 'My father's dead.
He would often have drunk round here.

He used the Overhead.'
Another generous half, a bottle of brown,
a pint for the father, who shook his head:
'They should never have knocked it down.'

The Dockers' Umbrella was the Liverpool Overhead Railway, demolished in the late 1950s, which ran alongside the docks from Seaforth to Dingle.