David Lewis Paget
When the roof came down in the copper mine
There wasn’t much hope, we said,
Those twenty men on the south-west drive
Are buried, and probably dead.
The guys came in from the midnight shift
And they shovelled away ‘til dawn,
Pumping air in over the drift
They propped where the roof was torn.
For nearly seventeen hours they worked
They took it in turns to drive,
A passage was finally opened up
Though the men were barely alive,
I watched them all come staggering out
They’d all survived to a man,
But the last one out had begun to shout:
‘There’s a guy in there, like Pan! ’
They sent in the stretcher bearers, who
Were there for an hour or more,
The men were shaken and pale of face
And wouldn’t say what they saw.
The stretcher was bearing a crumpled form
That they’d covered up with a sheet,
‘We’d better be taking this to the zoo,
And everyone, be discreet! ’
A rumour, much like a whispering sigh
Was spread through the mining town,
For everyone wanted to know the guy
They’d pulled from under the ground,
The men they’d saved from an early grave
Lay still in their hospital beds,
At every question they looked away,
Just lay there, shaking their heads.
Their syndicate lottery numbers won
On the Tuesday of that week,
A million each for the twenty men
But still, they wouldn’t speak.
I guess I was feeling curious
So I took myself to the zoo,
They’d closed it down for refurbishment
But I knew the keeper, Hugh.
He put his finger up to his lips
And he said, ‘Don’t make a sound!
You’ll get me shot if as like as not,
They see that you’re looking round.’
He let me in through the rear gate
That was clogged with vines and weeds,
And we crept unseen where we’d best be screened
In the shade of the lilac trees.
He pointed me up to the Tiger’s cage
And he said, ‘You go ahead!
I’ll not be going further than this,
But don’t get close, or you’re dead! ’
I wandered carefully up to the cage
It was slowly becoming dark,
And something hung in the evening air,
A sulphurous smell in the park.
The Tiger lay all over the cage
Its body was ripped to bits,
Its blood was spattered in violent rage
A snarl was on its lips,
Then from the rear of the cage a shape
Came shambling up to the bars,
It stood upright as a human might
But it certainly wasn’t ours.
The eyes were narrow and slitted, and
They glowed with a dull rich red,
The beard was long and the teeth were strong
Set deep in a goat shaped head.
It seemed to be wearing an evil grin
As it seized the bars with its claws,
And over above its pointed ears
Was the hint of a pair of horns.
Its legs were the crooked legs of Pan
There wasn’t the slightest doubt,
I took one step away from the cage
And stifled a fearful shout,
But then its shape had begun to change
And a tail whipped round at the bars,
It was long and pointed, covered in scale
And marked with a hundred scars.
It grew in size, in front of my eyes
As I stood, stock still and stared,
Pressed its face up close to the bars
And grinned with its nostrils flared,
A sudden flame shot out of its mouth
And a voice rose up from its gorge,
And rasped a name that lay deep in my brain,
‘So we meet again, St. George! ’
24 October 2013
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