Huskisson Street

It’s more than forty years since I arrived,
single heavy suitcase, (just handles then no wheels)
clutching expectations and an overdraft.

When I first cycled down Dock Road,
the brooding gates were locked, hiding
buddleia and sandstone rubble, the pall

of discontent hung heavy on the walls,
frustration on the razor wire.
I did not really understand your history.

My flat was in the Georgian Quarter,
back then, they were Red-Light roads.
I could see the hand jobs and the blow jobs

in the alley opposite, the givers looked
the same age as my mother,
receivers seemed much younger.

When I jogged the honey-coloured pavements
they crawled beside me in their Volvos.
I stared in disbelief at the baby seats and toys.

I gave them just a finger
and a posy of expletives.
I was much braver then.

My first job, one of many,
was in the basement bistro of The Casa.
Can you make soda bread? they said.

I couldn’t, but made it anyway
and on concert nights served what felt like
all the Philharmonic Orchestra,

with soup and bread, and Higson’s beer.
With hindsight it was probably
just brass and second violins.

Nicky Carter