Grand Union Bridge

by Ian Duhig

I’d cross this bridge across Paddington Cut
where PC Dixon was shot in The Blue Lamp
when I went to that cinema robbed by his killer,
the youngster Riley, with his pal Spud Murphy,
betraying Irish lines from this canal’s cutters
up to the likes of my family over to find work.

Is it called Paddington because of the Paddys?
I would be asked at school, but any youngster
could be the enemy within back in the Fifties,
easily dazzled by US glamour after the War,
its technicolor against our black and white,
its shooting first and asking questions later.

Back after decades, I can still see reflections of
that dazzle on the Grand Union’s green screen,
but a 35 mm film strip, unreeling memories
of it’s old oily rainbow coat of my childhood,
a poem like Yeats’s, so not meant to mean
but to meander, softly, till I end my song.

Water was a door to an Irish otherworld,
a land of glamour for the eternally young,
who’d only age if they touched our land.
A young suicide returned to land here,
gas inflating the mae west of her flesh,
turning over, an iceberg of tears, melting.

O commemorate me where there is water,
canal water preferably, wrote Kavanagh.
Police came and wrote in their notebooks.
Suicide seemed glamorous then. Live fast,
die young and leave a good-looking corpse.
It might have been when she first went in.

Some winters, the Cut grew a glass skin:
you could see through it now, a window
on the film-maker’s alchemical darkroom.
he writes with light and a silver nitrate ink,
watching the clock while his spell takes,
turning it back into a propellor for his craft.

If you want to know the time, they’d say,
ask a policeman. He knows its relative,
can even be suspended like a sentence.
A Riley then danced the Paddington Jig,
a measure called the Home Office Drop,
not named after the gentle rain of mercy.

But PC Dixon rose again from the dead
to star in a much-loved television show
as black and white as its writers’ plots.
This ran softly for over twenty-one years,
the length of whole youth in those days,
to the wedding cake with black icing. Cut.