'...the burnt out end of smoky days' - T.S. Eliot
The evening rumbles in
and grumbles, tea is served, the kettle
is buttered, weary workers settle,
nibble, drink their tea and chatter,
as the platter's
passed around and cakes are proffered
in the cozy parlour, lamp-lit,
rum is offered,
daily bread, and thankful for it.
Curtains closed against the weather,
children say their prayers together,
snug and safe now, sister, brother.
The morning sun prods sleepyheads
to service and to play,
the colliery beckons
and the women make the beds.
The cobbled backstreets glisten
from the rain the night before.
The siren calls
and all the miners listen,
they heed its strident roar
and step into their coveralls.
You take fresh linens from the chest,
it's time to straighten up the nest,
then gargle, and repair your face
to meet the challenges and woes,
you hold your children to your breast
and wonder how by heaven's grace
you'll pay the rent, afford the food,
as praying to the Lord you stand and shiver,
arms and legs are shaking, all a'quiver,
a dreadful vision haunts your eyes,
the poor house, shameful to conceive,
you lie upon the bed and weep,
how will you cope, how will you sleep?
no items left to compromise,
a constant struggle to believe.
He wrestles with his conscience, tried
and troubled, thoughts of fraud and theft
beset him constantly, he's torn,
his sickened heart is worn, bereft.
He looks into the eyes of strangers,
each consumed with his own fears,
distraught, and never satisfied,
into a world of want stillborn,
condemned to worry all these years.
We suffer with these souls who struggle
through a life of toil and grief,
tread-milled with no hope of cheer
or expectation of relief.
Copyright © Keith Bickerstaffe