“Tears upon which floated dead children …” ‘When the String Breaks’

August 17, 2014 by in Blog


Tears, aeons of them, stagnating, trapped in time, upon which floated dead children; no one stirring in its dirty pool. Obsessed by encroaching finality I’m sharing mother’s remaining years, another journey to Liverpool; a motorway cruise.

Colour surrounds me, urban and oceanic; thin blue sky, febrile hazy sun in spring’s first week; dry shadows covering pavement cracks reflecting people and buildings. I stand overlooking the dockland basin where departing ships once wove a floating web, currents copulated with rhythmically billowing canvas sails, bequeathing to the world products man made and man-made slave. Later it discharged vessels of steam and iron, hard and cold, symbols of a new age, throwing old certainties skyward. In this frantic cacophony disgorged seaman with their distinctive rolling gait carrying tales, adventure, money and sex drives, decamping across city boundaries.

Monuments elevating poverty’s soul graced the skyline with aristocratic munificence. Hard calloused palms, stunted legs, toiled steel rimmed, wooden spoked, grease smeared handcarts laden with city essentials clattering over cobbles betwixt tram lines. Daily Herculean efforts broke many, as well used dusty hessian sacks were slung over tired shoulders. Steep hills plunged to the river, its water front running with riches, goods and exotic fruit. Dry docks littered with ships, whelping bitches feeding their young, busy with labour, guarded by thick stone walls and watch towers. Poverty, an open sore wound, ran alongside. Sailors smuggled family gifts: cigarettes and drinks greeted rarely seen loved ones, till drink and boredom took their toll, tearing them apart as the tug of the sea beckoned once more. To Neptune’s domain thick arsed men swayed down streets, dark trousered, heavy bags listed their shoulders, towards place names I but imagined existed. Bells sounded shifts, waters churned, Plimsoll lines and ocean conditions, navigating dark nights thumping engines crossed wearily the world.

Products, trade, life, linked to the world of manufacturing, knowing only continuous drudgery, were all decimated, as if they were coarse iron and brick petals strewn across the city by the four winds that ravaged it in winter. Replaced by a tourist industry of colourful shops, some empty, museum experiences, and art galleries in a post-industrial society. So this dock of confluenced seas, once busyness itself, is more silent than its ever been. Even the cries of the slaves are silenced into the port’s museums as we sit in a restaurant; me the adopted, Mum the Irish, and her lay preacher nephew, Harold, the ‘you’ to his father long dead. The sun shone brighter through the plate glass windows, we examined the menu, ordered our food.

They poured tea, I drank wine, together summoning memories, an addictive exercise, becoming charges against this city; even in its greatness of saintly docks it celebrates destitution and wasted lives. A litany of names awaiting recognition: for what though? Not of satisfaction, nor staleness as one might pass off an old lover devoured by selfish needs. In other circumstances the three of us might have sat before good food and excellent wine, admired our peers, those of a golden generation before mine. Compared to them I’m an also ran searching for meaning in a life full of choice. Yeah, like shite or shit, or crap, or excrement. With imaginary importance we swill our conscience with illusions about choice in life determined by feelings. Deny our actions are stymied by economic inequalities beyond our control. God, if she exists, places mercy in a warm vagina, the holiest of symbols. Forget the body of Christ, meaningful life is the love we find inside that tight, juicy, perfumed space from which we emerge. The rapists, the violators, how they truly despise themselves.


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