i.m. Lillian Bilocca and the Hull triple trawler disaster, 1968.
I dreamed Hessle Road was a river
thundering by night to the North Sea
and all the men I’d tried to warn
were channelled from their pubs and houses
fists still clutching glasses, papers,
kitchen knives. I lay down in the waters
like a boat, but I was buffeted,
I zig-zagged after them, face-down,
my body bloated in the stream. I could still see
and knew the shoals beneath weren’t fish
but scraps of hulls and decks,
dead radios. The riverbed was lined
with messages, scribbled goodbyes
to everything we’d not yet lost
to all we could not carry, would not need
where water planned on taking us.
What the papers said
We’ll fight for our lads said 17-stone Lil,
proud on the docks like a 17-stone anchor.
Each ship needs a working radio, said the fishwife,
raising herself to her full height
and full 17 stone.
Lil is meeting Harold Wilson next week
and at 17 stone, she’s bound to make an impact.
The 17-stone Hull woman has called for a reform
of fishing laws in her distinctive Yorkshire accent,
standing at 17 stone and 5 foot 5.
With 17 stone behind her, she’s looking squarely
to the future. I’m proud of her said her husband
10-stone Charlie, gazing out to sea.
Don’t speak until you’re spoken to.
The ocean’s given me my cue.
You shouldn’t raise your voice outdoors.
My words live in the crowd’s applause.
This is a matter for the men. Go home.
I’ll stand until I’m frozen down to bone.
Your accent’s making you a laughing stock.
Long as they listen, let them mock.
They’ll mute you, Lil. They’ll throw you out to sea.
They’ll have to gag this town to silence me.
Lil’s last word
Nothing touches Hull except the sea.
As if a tide cut Hessle Road
and Anlaby, making us islands to ourselves.
I dived in where the ocean shelved away
and tried to swim. Before I’d raised my arms
I was already too far in
and too far out. The city fixed me
with its lighthouse stare. I opened my mouth
and I was ransacked by its glare.
I let a single word go like a flare
and watched it douse the night, then fall.
I sank as if I never swam at all.