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March 2007, vol 3 no 1

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Mauri Askell

Unnamed

all those battles
neither won nor lost
merely played out

A frost fog day break, the grey lane to the yard filled with the clump clump of heavy boots, Lowry like figures all moving towards the gates–a small stationary group surrounds a dark shape at their feet–the repetitive ting of clocking on, the last minute rush as the whistle blasts. The first hammer blows; skeletal cranes swing steel plate, cutting cold air; hot rivets hammered home; drills scream; arcs splutter and spark; hard faces; deep coughs ...

"It was the boilerman, dropped dead in the lane–he only got new boots last week".

The sun breaks thro'; iced water drips from hull plates; oil slicks technicolour the docks surface; gulls drift; stiff joints loosen; the day gathers.

"For thirty years give or take," he told me, "longer than me marriage, me an' that boiler nipper–you don't know the half of it."

Fifty-four years on, standing on the end of the pier greenheart underfoot, the evening sun warming my face, light flickering across the sea, I reply, "You're right."

ships at sea
the brutal bruised beauty
and all it took