Stevedore by Phil Barling

We were talking about the Beatles
and how Transcendental Meditation & the Japanese Avant Garde
can cause you to lose your sense of humour
and, although my Tai Chi and Mindfulness classes
have got me through some difficult times,
it’s the laughter I remember the most
We were talking about the peace and solitude of the Quays,
although it can echo with a deathly hum,
only the constant mocking cackle of Canada geese,
splitting the clear morning air
We remember the Gates of Number 9 Dock,
disgorging dockers into the Clowes Hotel and the Trafford
with their ‘booty’ of transistor radios and vinyl 45’s
from Chess Records in Chicago, bound for the front rooms and parlours
of besotted guitarists with fading, flattened Teddy Boy quiffs
and the gift of a song
We were talking about the thingummybobs and waddyacallits
of Yesterday, as we gazed across the icicle clear water of the Marina
the shipless and the shiny, with everything new
No gunge of oily black calm, no donkey bray hooters, no dripping moorings
or freezing hawsers stretching out to bollards in the finger snapping cold
no ship slipping through the dawn mists of Cornbrook and Pomona
from Granada to the Great Lakes
We remember Manchester Concorde, in from Montreal, newly converted,
as a thousand anxious flat caps swarm like bees to the nectar of another day’s pay,
Salford Docks, with its Park Drive permanently clenched between its chapped winter lips,
still a lifetime away from the galleries, gourmet restaurants and soap opera theme parks
where the transformation from warehouse to gift shop, from cradle to container,
docker to rocker and mop top to mystic traveller, became complete
I wonder, as they slept in their Redundancy Dreams
did these men too, remember the laughter the most?