• Adrian Caesar


We travel the old dock road beyond the pier-head

rehearsing famous names: Gladstone, Sandon, Wellington,

dead squares of vacant water behind blank walls;

the clock on the abandoned harbour master’s tower

tells no one’s time stuck in a never ending past,

while rusting gantries and skeleton sheds,

the long dis-used railway lines criss-crossing the street

lead to blood-house pubs boarded with steel

corrugations; all that’s left of living trade are

ghosts of its hey-day, the ships moored three deep;

the thoroughfare alive with steam wagons, sailors, dockers:

the bustle of high adventure and enterprise.

How it all becomes a broken landscape of desire

as if to say here all endeavour and ambition ends;

even the renovations don’t convince;

the old warehouses re-built to luxury flats

look like places of correction in which

the wealthy owners are sentenced to a long stretch,

each night’s lonely escape from the humdrum day

haunted by voices raised in capstan shanties,

dreams of rich voyages, girls in every port

and, at the end, love in safe harbour. They wake

to the modern city marooned in its future;

from their barred windows see brave concrete,

steel and glass rearing from ruin, jousting with decay.