The Last of England

by Stephen Devereux

Second Prize in the Bare Fiction Prize for Poetry 2014

There are black stumps, now, round
the Liver Building like rotten teeth
in a much-loved mouth and there’s a
corporate sheen on those dark glass
towers that dwarf the Pier Head’s
quaint proportions. Yet

the super-tankers still loll up the river
on porpoise-sleek hulls as the midget
ferries criss-cross their wakes, threading
both banks of the river together like tight
white laces pinching a corset waist. Their

decks are stuffed with tourists who know
all the words of the songs—but gone are the
joking commuters who scrambled up the
pitching walkways just in time. And yet

beyond the river’s mouth the Welsh hills
still appear all at once to port with a smoke
blue shock while the frozen dunes to
starboard seem to drift backwards like frail
diminished pyramids of a gone culture. Now
we cruise through the junkyard of wind farms
and gas-rigs, rigid in the gale that rocks us,
bends gulls into pale, inscrutable hieroglyphs.

With the Wicklows ghostly south of Man
riding at anchor before us, Galloway
stormy and green to the north, it’s easy
to picture Norsemen crossing
like arrow showers, the fat slavers
turning south and the poor,
bilious and fearful, sailing westwards,
singing lullabies under the flapping awnings.
This is the last of England.

 

Stephen Devereux

The Last of England was placed second in the Bare Fiction Prize for Poetry 2014 and first appeared in Issue 5 of Bare Fiction Magazine in March 2015.