Liver Birds


Trains passed in a tunnel: an exaltation of locomotion and near-death. A rush of carriages erupted from the expressionless dark. Hurtling carriages offered an epileptic sputum of opposing travellers. Passengers furiously merged. Watery eyes floated free from sockets. Lips dragged together in an interrupted stream. Twenty carriages of bodies converged in a strange zoology – deep-sea fish aping businessmen, interns and tourists. For a moment the trains caught in intimate parallel.

Paul was quietly relieved when they parted without touching. 


Room 332 possessed a terse cleanliness. Toiletries lined up for parade in the en suite. Pivot lamps glanced furtively at the door. Starched sheets strained in a formal embrace with each other and the mattress. 

332 was pressed, smoothed and folded into submission. This was order, following and preceding the grubby disruption of occupation. The curtains, however, hung like an open dressing gown. Without, Liverpool was exposed.


The Anglican and Catholic cathedrals argued in different languages for the city’s soul. Modernity saluted the heavens with jellyfish tentacles in the shadow of the resplendent Anglican giant. Paul felt he had found God’s third house in the back of a taxi patrolling Liverpool.

Two points of clarity – the driver’s eyes – lit the rear view mirror. A sermonising confessional struck up between the two men. The driver had been born to secular parents but a Protestant community, enjoying the hunger of poverty all faiths may feel. Never knowing a father to be reliable, he had quickly replaced the hierarchy of the church for the meritocracy between delinquents. The basin of heaven was drained and stars were devoured by heavy pollutants. The driver, finding himself beneath a sky unvarnished with divinity, set down the crucifix for a crowbar.

Paul listened to a man who had been imprisoned for attempted armed robbery at the age of 15. In conspiratorial tones, the driver disclosed how the high brick walls of the exercise yard transformed the sky from the source of rain, hail and natural onslaught to an expression of freedom. The prisoner valued life and looked to thank someone for his modest lot. The background radiation of his childhood struck home. The man raised amongst Liverpool’s jagged sectarian geography raised his prayers to the heavens.

Paul was comfortable in the confines of the cab. The drenched streets offered no attraction and the city’s colour ran into the Mersey with the rain. 

“Don’t wait until you’re good enough,” concluded the driver. He meditated on the divine as he fiddled the taxi meter.

Author: Aidan Clifford

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