In Barbados, another twelve slaves
were purchased for two hundred pounds
to make the land give up, or as they say, yield
and nurture the sun-catcher sugar grass,
light energy spun into gold for the Maryport men
to send home. Build up the banks
of the Ellen. Put ships in the dock.
Safe haven for bringing in iron ore, tipped
off into trains that slid down to Workington,
the Solway to the west, a tame slip of sea
the colour of sand, breaking on the blue beaches,
the red rocks, the black sea-coal stones.
From the harbour went iron for the Empire
fresh metal for ploughs, rifles, buildings. For bombs.
And the fishing boats headed for Iceland
to trawl the live sea. Maryport sent its children
schooled in standing up for themselves, to the wars
that made their home harbour redundant,
that emptied the berths. Now the ropes
are grown over like larch twigs with lichen,
rust runs down the capstans. No shoals in the sea.
The new leisure centre rings hollow.
In the play park a wooden wrecked boat
barely amuses the child. The halyards tap morse
on the yacht masts as they wait for the tide.
There is something in the redshank’s urgent call.