Every Saturday morning I’d come down
to see a tight brown roll-up hanging
from the puckered lips of the letterbox.
Awaiting Dad – in lieu of salt fish – was
Grandma’s proxy of one twelfth motherlove:
news from home, the week’s Liverpool Echoes.
‘You never forget your kids,’ she’d told my own
mother, ‘Not one of them.’ And so she found
the time to juggle a dozen, alongside
Liberace, in the variety show that trod
the boards of an inner life; whilst she got on
with the washing and wiping Philip’s nose.
With her old man lost at sea, she’d ‘seen’ Richard
wave to her from the parlour on the very
morning he’d stopped a bullet in Normandy
and buried Betty after that bomb destroyed
the munitions factory. Now, with Jimmy
down Clockface and her old man back but lairy,
she guarded the survivors jealously.
National Service had taken Our Alec
to Catterick and, demobbed, thence to West
Hartlepool via the Rink Ballroom and
my mother. The seventh son, he needed
some looking after and the Fifties Mappa
Mundi read, ‘There be monsters’ somewhere east
of Leeds. Lob Scouse didn’t post and supply lines
were being stretched; hence a sphere of influence
demarcated by string and brown paper,
scrolled around the throttled daily tidings
that would gather at home through the day shift.
Now posted exotica exciting a grandchild,
they would poke, without fail, from the docker’s
gob at the foot of our stairs: love’s woodbine.
By Martin Malone