from Silent Highway: section 4, ‘Uncle Rufus’

Launched with a huge array of cast-iron ornament,
Notably shields displaying the crest
Of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company,
Daubed in heraldic colours but declared
By the public a monstrosity, Blackfriars
Merged with the nearby bridge of Saint Paul’s.
The merger brought it pulpits and parapets.
Then on the 15th of June, 1982, four years after
The assassination of a rather decent pope,
The body of Roberto Calvi was found at the end of a rope
Beneath the granite arches of this bridge;
His hands tied behind his back,
His jacket pocket weighed down by a brick.

Blackfriars marks a corner of that square
Mile that keeps the city split off from the town.
Deeply involved in a fraudulent Vatican loan
Which led to the implosion of his banco,
Calvi fled to England carrying a portmanteau
Filled with ambrosial banknotes.  Banking on a deal
With Opus Dei, whereby they would acquire a
Holding in his bank by paying off the Mafia, 
Calvi was obliged to bankroll Propaganda Due.   
Bankrupt – and corrupted by its puppet-master, Gelli –  
While frantically attempting to plug the gaping hole
In his bankbooks, he had agreed to launder
The drug engendered profits of the Corleone family. 

He never laundered the money though.  Instead,
He “borrowed” it to keep his ship afloat. 
Opus Dei reasoned that with Calvi dead,
The total collapse of his stocks would result
And this in turn dislodge their powerful
Enemies in the Curia, opening the way for them
To gain total dominance of the Vatican.  
It was revealed by a Mafia informer
That Calvi had been strangled by the Mafia’s
London based heroin traffic manager. 
Bridges are the sacred responsibility
Of the Whitefriars of Paris.  But this is the bridge
Of the masons, of the shadowy

Practitioners of corporate piracy, the mighty
Of the mercantile world; those who dictate
That Canary Wharf shall be shaped
Like an obelisk and that its shadow
Shall fall over Hawksmoor’s church
With the pyramid beside the gate at Limehouse.
Some say Captain Smith was a mason,
And so was Powhatan, who knew him
By some sign – and this saved Smith,
And it was nothing to do with Pocahontas!
In this reach, on an August night in 1989,
Two hundred young people were partying
Aboard that tidy pleasure boat, the Marchioness… 

from Silent Highway (Anvil Press Poetry, 2014), © Anthony Howell 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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