by Carol Ann Duffy
You heard a voice of water and air and light,
down by the pier head, from the river’s opening throat
as hundreds disembarked from a ferry-boat.
You followed the crowd. The boast and brag of stone
clamoured under your feet; glamorous, northern-
the tall dark handsome streets of the place you were born in.
A seagull screamed, trapped in the mouth of the wind.
A woman cried, tramping the streets while it rained,
mourned by cathedral bells, for love or money.
You walked down the hill to the city, one of many,
hearing the stories the buildings blagged- slavery,
bravery, knavery, fame, tall tales of stone birds spreading
their wings. You heard a voice of leather and metal guitars
sing from a backstreet, fade like a ghost, like light from a star
that took years to arrive. Ships on the water moaned.
You hunted it down, the sound of the soul of a voice,
of the bricks and mortar, the doing and dying, the staying
or leaving. You searched for a shape for the drama
and shadowed the crowd to a square where a play-house stood
like a ship of stone and glass. You took a seat in the darkness,
the sound of applause like talent thinking aloud, embarked
on a listening voyage of words. This was your theatre now.
A girl on the stage was telling you how, tonight,
she heard a voice of water and air and light.
Commissioned by The Liverpool Playhouse