Present & Past

An older man stood at the bar,

“They closed our mines, they went too far”.

I point out three decades gone,

You’ve held this rage for far too long.

The older chap with bloodshot eyes

Turned his head towards one side,

“I was there in eighty four, when police & trungeons burst through door”-

Yes I know the wound runs deep, 

you may still see it in your sleep.

I raise my hand up to my heart,

and tell him my grandfather’s part.

My grandad worked too down the pits,

Back since world war two was it,

He was gentle, kind, and wise,

Yet black lung took him from our lives.

The older man first paused then shrugged,

” Many lives the black lung took”.

Then he paused and raised his glass,

“To those great men who dug the black!”

I drank along and should have stopped,

Too many lives the black lung took.

He pursed his lip the aging gent,

“To live that life was time well spent,

My father dug it, and his too,

And his, and his, as far back as I knew”.

I twitched at this an eyelid bat,

So what of choice sir? Answer  that!

Had those coal hole graves still ran,

Would young around here choose a plan?

Or would they just have one straight path,

No choice, no dreams, just coal dust baths?

The greying fellows face grew lined,

“You did have choices, numbered nine:

Hewers hewed and broke the rock,

Colliers likewise but coal they chopped,

Drillers drilled and blasted ground,

Loaders filled the carts day round,

Putters pushed the loaders carts,

Barrowmen pushed smaller barr’as ab’art,

Hurriers pushed the carts still further,

Timberers sured the tunnels structure,

Brakesmen drove the engines wind,

Breaker boys broke coal all’t time”.

I was impressed I had to say,

More roles than I expected sir, touché.

But I still niggled one last quote,

The fact remains my grandads smote.

My fathers a plumber, my brothers a doc,

I am a writer, my cousins do lots,

Would we be these if there still was a mine?

The old man was quiet, answer declined.

Yet respect these old miners will always have mine.


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