‘The Graving Dock’ by Jean Maskell

I am the cathedral of memory. An aged place soaring below your gaze. Look down, deep into the depths of my space, feel yourself pulled into my wonder, my possibility.

I am vast, yet a void, my spine of keel-blocks curved, waiting for the gates to open, the roar of the unstoppable wall of sea, grey green, tumbling foaming until we are one.

And in you sail and stay a while as the ocean drains away, and working men, scrape and hammer, rivet and paint. Scaffolding comes and goes, and a lad falls from the staging, a sailor meets a girl and songs are sung, notes blown away on the Mersey breeze.

You wait, restless, held tight by groaning chains. Gulls circle, shriek, calling you to break away, be free. I will hold you for a while as the sea rises again, moving within me. For I am of the sea – the moon and tides my master. My mermaids are Mary Ellens, my sons are men of steel and sweat.

When you are gone, I will lie empty for a while. A stooping man will poke in sulphur stinking mud for treasure – a carters-horse shoe; rusted nails; sea snake scraps of rope; a silver pocket watch, engraved, still ticking.

For I am the cathedral of memory, of heritage, of emotion – of all who stay and all who go, and all who come and feel the liminal depths of my space and all that my emptiness holds.