Dockers’ Umbrella

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

‘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.’

By copland smith