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,

Lancashire-faced wife,

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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