The Ship & Mitre

The solitary drinker raises a pint

to his younger self in the bar-room mirror,

and to the older consulting a glass of brown beer.

 

Penitent at his usual scuffed table,

all versions drink slowly and deeply;

there is time to drink, to align the spirit

 

as last Friday’s five o’clockers renew before him,

filing into the pub like a ghost-congregation,

wave twenties at the barmaid sating this session.

 

His own bar presence assured,

there is time to drink, to soak the soul full.

At the bottom of the next porter it is the day

 

the Queen’s tunnel opens outside The Mitre,

shadows from the crowd pour into each window

where lunch-hour secretaries sip Mackeson’s stout,

 

keep tabs on the Guinness clock which loses fifty years,

and the crowd turns red awaiting Istanbul spoils-

every other scouser in a Tommy Cooper fez;

 

the Dale Street flyover packed as the navvies’ girder

in that early-century New York picture.

The pub never forgets.

 

Through the segments of the parlour-room window,

its glass frosted like a grab-handle tankard,

the pub mascot, Worzel Gummidge, tilts his head

 

and asks for a taste to wet the lips,

as stalks of hay rain from his holy suit.

There is time to drink, to rant, to sing.

 

Barrels rumble on cobblestones and the pub

shrinks to breath vanishing in a drained pint, 

ale soaking into the floorboards like blood.