Mike Jenkins offers a prose-poem inspired by Martin Hayes’ book of poetry ‘The things our hands once stood for’
for Martin Hayes
I’ll never forget those hands resting on his lap like two sleeping cats till his body was wracked by a coughing fit and they woke and shook disturbed by dreams of slobbering, snarling jaws.
Those hands knew deep down what I had acquired in studies, courses of rivers and streams black on his palms; while I had merely drawn a map of the Valleys with a shaded area to mean coalfield, like a tainted lung.
Those hands – the pick ‘n’ shovel of them – had known the obdurate seams, blind tunnels and a dust so dense it seemed a swarm, a plague.
As he talked they opened up and shone, glowed with his up-down tones which followed the streets down to the nearby park and Nye Bevan museum and back uphill sucking at precious breath.
As he talked, they played like the kids he’d never had; cats scampering along fence-tops and clawing up bark.
Such hands you’ll never see again, engrained with stories of his butties, of desperate rescues, of pit-ponies born into dark galleries.
Those hands had been buried, were a print of carbon; had risen to rub the gentle flames of skin, to a hearth where he sat with his missis coaxing the fire to a high burning.