‘The Garden at Canning Dock’  by Brontë Crawford

One hundred and two greenheart planks.
Shipper: Samuel Sandbach
Residence: Georgetown, British Guyana
Cosigner: John Moss
Residence: Liverpool, England
Notes: Heard from a sailor of Guyanese girl who watched her father felling greenheart trees for his master, and took the pile of leftover kindling for a house he was building her, like for her mother. Didn’t say whether she burned along with it, but he won’t walk by the George Dock gates anymore. I went and stood under them yesterday, thinking that were I a Guyanese, I might look up and believe it were the roof of my own house above my head.

Four crates mother-of-pearl shells
Shipper: Charles Edward Broadhurst
Residence: Tien Tsin, Australia
Cosigner: Henry Wainwright
Residence: Liverpool, England
Notes: Good taste is universal, Mam says. Shouldn’t wonder then that the aborigines were diving for these and wearing them like trophies before we even knew about them. Supposedly most of this lot came from a pregnant aborigine woman who stayed underwater for hours and then popped out hers and the master’s twins on the schooner deck. Made me think of Da, he would have liked to go and see them. Closest he ever got was that King’s Reg. badge – wish I’d kept hold of it now. Could have been a women and child that plucked it from the bottom of the sea, only for us to bury it again with him in the earth!

Twelve crates seeds: four rhododendron; four peony; four primula
Shipper: Ernest Henry Wilson
Residence: Songpan, Tibet
Cosigner: Arthur Bulley
Residence: Liverpool, England
Notes: Figured all the flowers would come out red what with all the fighting over there. But the garden’s all white up at St Nic’s, white as saint’s flesh the sailors say, when they go to pray for safe passage. They call it Sailors’ Chapel now. Went up myself to see it – Tibet’s all snowy, they say, but seeing them flowers makes me wonder if maybe everyone’s just seeing things, gone strange with so much death. Maybe the place has just got so many white flowers that it seems always to be snowing.

Forty hogsheads cotton
Shipper: Richard Reynolds Rathbone
Residence: Alexandria, Egypt
Cosigner: William Rathbone
Residence: Liverpool, England
Notes: Sailors say Egyptian cotton breathes as though it were alive. Like having bodies in the hold, one of them told me, and said no more when I asked why. Someone else said that the lad was on the Romana years ago, and ever since takes tree logs for broken limbs and pomegranate juice for bloodstains and cotton bales for bare backs with lash marks. Won’t walk near the Town Hall or the Flags anymore – thinks he can smell the cotton and the earth that grew it. Cotton off the ships never smelled like anything to me. Never heard it breathe either.

But then I’m just a scribe, never seen one grain of the big wide world with my own eyes. Never left Liverpool in all my life.