Rigger's Echo

Remembered in sepia tones: the Liverpool shipyard,
rusting derricks gaunt against a steel-grey sky,
where my uncle Richard hammered and welded
year after year in the salty diesel air,
sustained by cigarettes and bacon butties
and mug tea from the cafe across the tracks.

Off-duty, scrubbed, he always still reeked
of oil and metal and flux and rust and paint.
Even the acrid smoke from his roll-your-owns
(Player’s Extra tobacco, dark and waxy)
couldn’t mask a lifetime of rivets and welds,
the cold Mersey deep in his creaking bones.

The clang of hammers, the rattle of dockside trams —
as our Nan used to say — rang in his voice.

By Henry Quince