Stamford Street Stories by Michael Dunne
On a street that had no trees
where Callaghan O’Driscoll used to live –
Callaghan who was pushed into the priesthood
by his embarrassed Mayo mother
when he failed the Eleven Plus
and went off to Upholland seminary
until he ‘tunnelled’ his way out,
with that Jamie Walsh lad,
by smoking cigarettes
and writing obscene graffiti on a wall –
I cross to the corner shop
that was owned by Theophilus Messiah Joseph:
‘Licensed to sell beer, wine and spirits’,
where Sweet Sensation rehearsed their
vocal harmonies in the enormous cellar
that doubled as a shebeen.
Theo, tall, shiny and black, with his white,
in her thick-lensed, black-rimmed specs.
The same Theo who resisted
and was beaten lifeless
by faceless no-marks robbing his shop.
Outside, pint-sized local scallies –
who should be at school –
flash by on BMXs, like so many swifts,
dipping and banking, doing wheelies
in front of cars lost trying to negotiate
their way through the pedestrianised streets
with their quick-growing saplings,
past the building site for the Masjid e Noor
emerging from its temporary home
in the old Co-Op where Jamie’s brother
earned money stacking shelves
while their dad squandered the
housekeeping in the bookie’s next door.
Wait! I hear sound above me and look up – birds!
You never got birds around here,
not until the trees arrived – now there’s blue-tits
outsmarting the dun-coloured sparrows,
and house martins from sub-Saharan Africa
return each year to their mud pie houses
stuck high on the wall, under the gutters
of Callaghan’s red-bricked terraced house;
and in the porch of the house itself
an Asian family, Urdu speakers from Pakistan,
newly arrived in the neighbourhood,
stand on the doorstep, people-watching,
wondering what they’ve got themselves into.
(c) Michael Dunne.
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