Chris Price

These poems, written at various times between 1970 and 1998, reflect different aspects of life on Merseyside.
The first, September, looks out from the shore at Crosby, but harks back in memory to the Exmouth of my childhood.
was a reaction to the massive Anglican Cathedral in the city, and is perhaps a little uncharitable:
I have warmer feelings towards that great building today. Rimrose Valley, the most recent verse,
describes a nocturnal visit to a rather odd area lying between the Liverpool suburbs of Seaforth and Thornton.
It is a green lung superimposed upon a reclaimed rubbish tip, with the Rimrose Brook now  flowing underground.
In Perspectives, I return to the Anglican Cathedral for a fantasy prompted by the limited vision available to me
at an Ordination Service. Finally, Liverpool Morning marks my reaction to visiting Anfield Stadium in the wake of
the terrible events at Hillsborough that left so great a mark on the people of Liverpool. Twelve years on, the echoes of that
tragic event are still heard in Liverpool, and demands for the truth about what happened may, in another new decade,
at last be answered.



Under a northern sky in a quiet September, 
Beyond the far-out line of water a buoy sounds, 
Rocking idly as the big ships pass. 
The sad tolling of the great bell rings 
Down the years and back in time 
To a far southern shore in the high summer: 
Towering cliffs and an iron ladder down to the hot beach 
And running over the bright morning tide-line; 
Great scallop-shells set on the ribbed sands; 
A perfect starfish sprawling by a pool. 
And all day in and out of the sea in the warm sun. 
At night, above the cliffs, up through the long 
Summer grass as the shadows grew longer. 

And always, always calling from beyond sight, 
A bell tolling, sounding, echoing, 
Unutterably sad and distant; 
Measuring without pattern the days and nights, 
Touching my dreams with uncertain melancholy: 
Telling the end of youth and summer. 
Now my child plays as the big ships slip out to sea, 
And the silent tide creeps unnoticed over the flat bay. 
Still the bell swings slowly. 
Nothing has changed. 

September 1970 



Always rising above the river and the flat coastal plains, 

It crouches massively on the Liverpool skyline, 
Riding above a townscape of still unfilled bomb sites 
Where black bin-bags clog the back alleys 
And spray paint scrawls drab walls and boarded, gaping windows. 
Wherever you are, there is no escaping it: 
An uncompromising gothic statement, 
Soaring ramparts of towering sandstone, 
Slab piled on slab, solid and unrelieved. 
Embattled fortress, a proclamation of unfashionable power, 
Reared from its foundations in an age of faith, 
Built with merchants' money, the tithings of an Empire's grubby trade, 
Unfolding down the years bay by echoing bay, 
Craning up laboriously over a century of slow growth, 
It rests now, dwarfing the glass and concrete capsule 
Of its mushroomed Metropolitan neighbour 
Perching at the other end of a street called Hope. 

Inside, the sheer scale subdues you, challenging belief; 
In this reverberating emptiness what detail there is lost. 
There are vast vistas here, but few secrets - 
A cavernous, uncluttered presence, but without mystery; 
A museum of masonry erected out of its time, yet without a history. 
Its aisles, tall tunnelled corridors tiled with stone, 
Shelter few effigies and prompt fewer prayers, 
No saints throng its shadows: there are no echoes yet from the consecrated past. 
In this monumental and hollow height 
Even the choirs trained voices shiver into high thin echoes; 
Disembodied amplified prayers boom and scatter through space. 
Only the organ's mighty thunderings 
Can shake the founding stone beneath your feet, 
Shatter the vacuumed acreage of chill and empty air 
And for a time fill up this tall, cold, vaulted temple 
With a triumphant certainty of splendid sound. 

Outside, beyond the bright, incongruous new glass, 
Even this trumpeting apocalypse of power 
Is lost in the indifferent city's roar. 
Beyond the terraced walls, the patrolled and guarded gates, 
The scarred streets still await their resurrection. 

May, 1991


Rimrose Valley

Unremarkable, the safe suburban streets 
Proclaim an ordinary, bordered life: 
Cars squat on pavements. In the gathered gloom 
Curtains shut out the dark or, parted, show 
Blue flickering screens and tanks of circling fish. 
Cats sidle past. The street lamps reassure 
As, through each pool of warm and orange light, 
The muffled poet's promenading feet 
Clatter about their planned perambulation. 
Beyond the comfort zone the waste ground beckons: 
A reclaimed tip, an unkempt urban park 
Between canal and suburb's spreading sprawl. 
Its low expanse is black beneath the sky, 
Threaded by hidden paths, necklaced by one lit way. 
Reckless of fear, the bard's unbroken stride 
Traces this ribboned corridor of light 
And on to darkness.  

Now, walking slowly in the sudden whispering dark, 
He turns and sees, above the huddled houses left behind, 
Strung rosaries of sodium beading the streets 
Linking the school's distant and floodlit tower 
And further yet, lit patchwork matchbox slabs 
Where high-rise cages hum with late office life 
And, beyond all these, the distant haloed bulk 
Of the cathedral. From the imagined docks 
Gaunt silhouetted cranes part the dark sky: 
Decked with a shapely, clouded, rising moon 
And the emerging pattern of pincushioned stars. 
One tracks steadily in from the sunk sea, 
Winkling and droning homeward (so to Speke). 

But underfoot the gravel crunches strangely 
And puddles gleam a dull metallic grey 
And the lit gate is rather far away. 
A sudden snuffling is a questing dog 
Pursuing night scents in the harsh dead growth: 
Its owner shuffles past without a word. 
Something unseen slides through the stubbled grass; 
A night bird mews its weird and lonely call. 

Forsaking further inspiration 
The versifier scuttles swiftly back 
To the marked sanctuary of the solid streets, 
With never a backward glance to where 
Behind his ringing echoing sounding feet 
The shadowed undulating silent field 
Folds in its secret under hurrying clouds. 

December 1998



On the floor of this consecrated and cavernous cathedral space 
An intricate pattern of worship is laid down. 
At eye-level, one of a thousand witnesses, 
I peer past hats and hairdos to perceive 
A two-dimensional and partial perspective. 
Bishops and deacons and servants of the sanctuary 
Progress ponderously into and past the eye's immediate focus 
To squat on distant squares of this vast chess-board. 
In due course, remote hands are laid on heads 
As the blurred word bounces off the unyielding walls, 
Arriving sooner, or later, acoustically distorted, 
Twice blessed (at least) in my uncomprehending ear. 
The choir`s fragmented polyphonic praisings 
Skitter around this vast and echoing nave 
Until, to the organ's thunderous proclamations, 
The priestly protagonists process again 
Back into my view and on and out of sight. 
This has all happened to someone else, not me. 

Desirous of a decent view for once, 
In fantasy now I float free into the third dimension, 
Rising slowly above the serried ranks 
To hover, bird's-eyed in the middle air. 
No longer depressed by the gravity of the situation, 
Powered by my inflated personality, 
I swoop weightless over pulpit and organ-pipes, 
Pigeon-like, drop in on episcopally mitred heads, 
Dispassionately noting receding priestly hairlines. 
So that's what happens. I see it all at last. 
Drifting higher, I perceive all this pomp and clerical circumstance 
As merely a shifting multi-coloured carpet on a distant floor 
From which thin sounds waver up towards the over-arching vault. 

Now even the foursquare tower dissolves; 
The organ's utterance diminishes to a murmur, 
As my gondola soars past the tower's topmost pinnacle, 
Out and up into the bright, still upper air, 
To where cathedral, city, river and shining estuary 
Are part of a coloured counterpane laid on the flat earth; 
And all things: my empty seat far below, 
The songs of praise, the solid statement of the sandstone tower, 
Are one with birdsong and the sighing wind. 

Is this God's vision of his diocese? 
So minute, so lacking in significance? 
Quickly, I pull in the string of my imagination's balloon 
And perch once more, deflated, 
Safely small, anonymous and earthbound. 
Time to greet friends and find the lavatories. 
Now where did I park the car? 

June 1993  


Liverpool Morning
After Hillsborough

On this grey Liverpool morning the suburbs are empty: 
The early church-goers are already behind closed doors with God. 
But the Anfield streets are filling with streams of people 
Converging on the high cramped bulk of the stadium that has become a place of pilgrimage. 
Already the line stretches back out of sight. 
All manner of folk come now to stand here, their differences unnoticed and unimportant. 
They clutch flowers, or bear mementos of past glories: 
Offerings to lay at this shrine. 

The indifferent walls of this football fortress rise above streets 
Strewn with wet litter and festooned with tributes. 
Here graffiti is transformed into homage 
On walls where old enemies have inscribed the end of ancient hostilities. 
Now even 'Mancs' felt-tip their sorrow on red brick: 
Scrawled scripture of reconciliation and hope. 
And the line shuffles on endlessly, 
Round new corners, down narrow boarded streets in the dull morning, 
To pause briefly before the iron gates. 

Here is the first centre of the feeling. 
The verses on cards, ink running down torn paper, 
The sentiments misspelt and trite yet tragically heartfelt. 
The simple outpourings of thousands for whom football is their faith. 
To these Shanks waits at the gates of heaven to receive his own; 
A tribal hero set in their eyes only a little lower than the angels. 
Here believers have honoured the trampled dead 
With long-cherished tokens, given up in their memory 
That here at least they may never walk alone. 
But we are borne forward on the tide at last 
Into the holiest of holies.

No pictures could prepare for this: 
The stadium lies open, its hallowed turf transformed and diminished. 
The stands rise silently behind and to each side; 
But below the far terraces the goal is drowned in a wave of living flowers 
And flowers, fashioned into all manner of shapes 
And in a host of bright and beautiful colours 
Have flooded almost half of the field. 

As the lines move slowly on over the laid tarpaulin 
Their offerings are taken and laid down in new rows 
On the living altar of this cathedral of flowers. 
It is silent here, but for subdued murmurings. 
The Kop has never been so still. 
Its terraces are hung with scarves and trophies, flags and banners, 
Peopled with the memories of its dead. 

There are no songs today, and few words. 
They sit on scattered seats to think or pray 
Or just to be a part of what is happening here: 
The lying in state of a way of life. 
And the crowds are marshalled relentlessly on and out 
Into the untidy shuttered Sunday streets. 
Tonight the gates will close upon a week of history 
And soon life will flow back. 
But today, for faithful and agnostic alike, this is the place to be. 
At this focal point of pilgrimage all belong together 
And uncertainty is stilled. 

Outside there will be questions to ask, hard answers to be given 
And truths to be faced in the end. 
But despite doubts and misgivings, on this day it is surely fitting to be here. 
This unforgettable place, sanctified now by remembered suffering 
Unites all who have obeyed their instinct to follow a million others. 
Tomorrow will be another day 
But today belongs to Liverpool and its dead. 

Anfield Football Stadium:  23 April 1989   


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