THE COAL TATTOO

only the rich could love coal

this spat from deep within

a dark armchair

the grate of the Victorian fireplace

mocks with its sterile echo

 

hands like birds

accompany the voice

of this small old man in Wales

coal tattoos on the back of his hands

mark him as one of the tribe

arms swamped by his sleeves

 

broken by spending too long in the pits

or starting too soon or both

anger still there

fuelled by futility

the pits closed

bosses moved on

 

the last of his breed

counting each breath

all his young gang gone

taken too early by blacklung

or rock fall or gas

 

now they bloody go and plonk

a bleeding park at the pit head

civic mindedness absolving guilt

he won’t forgive

curses every long day

of his dying

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