Members of Poet-in-Residence's family are exploring the family tree. Goodness knows what they hope to find! One branch of the family worked at a colliery situated on the North East coast of England. P-i-R's mother reckons the mine was closed because of the risk of dangerous subsidence and that the families had to remove from the miners cottages which had been built too close to the pit, and were in a precarious condition. The following poem is an attempt to recreate the scene, as seen through the eyes of a young coal miner's mother.
Cold Sweet Tea
Boys, who can barely write, kneel
deep down, miles out to sea beneath
black-ribbed sands, before
the coal-face and pneumoconiosis.
Stripped to the waist, mine's as thin
as a pit prop; a crab-shadow clawing
for coal to make a rich man richer.
From time to time he swallows
cold sweet tea from a tin,
observed by a sleepy canary
and a blind pit pony in the light
of a Davy Lamp. When the clock
strikes I prepare his sink;
water, scrubbing brush, soap.
Listen for his footfall. The house,
within spitting distance of
the shaft, is going to its knees;
coming apart at its dusty seams.
Buckled and sagging, it creaks and
groans with each subsiding night.
c)- 2005 Gwilym Williams
This poem is taken from a limited edition booklet of 20 signed copies. A self-publishing effort containing 20 short poems, the booklet called 'Mavericks', is a one-off from the aptly named 'Kitchen Table Publications'.