by Glenn Bradford
Still dreams of the pit, does old Derek.
Gripping the duvet in great calloused hands
as if ready to swing at the coalface of the night.
Stripped to the waist. A vivid reprise.
Terry, Taylor and The Bull, headlamps in hand,
anticipating the familiar clatter of a closing cage door.
Yet, before dropping to the bowels of that vast fossil store,
Somebody lets one go, and howls of laughter and mock indignation
Echo down the shaft like Saturdays in the Welfare bar.
Stench sour enough to kill a canary. The usual suspect
quips something about ‘natural gas’; Derek pinches his nose,
drifting outside, looking in, as though at a treasured photograph.
Then silence. Mechanisms groan; the gasp of release.
Steady descent into the rising heat. ‘Like a furnace,’
Derek grumbles, teetering on the cusp of sleep.
The lift jerks, he wakes: panicked, thinking he’s overlaid.
Only realising after a second that it’s thirty years since
any siren called to pick up to tools or brew tea for break.
‘Gets y’like that,’ he tells me, wistfully, over the back fence.
Prods his powerful chest with a proud thumb.
‘In the blood for generations, but …’
He leaves the rest hanging between us like smog,
then, with a shrug, returns to mowing the lawn
he mowed and watered only the day before.
This is one of the poems sent in for our Bread and Roses Poetry Award, by a member of the Communication Workers Union.