Steven Cooke

Rookie (01-04-1958 / Sheffield)

Made In Sheffield - Poem by Steven Cooke

Its Early Morning, a mist descends into the valley.
Not a Mist, from some love poem, but a fog forged in graft.
No sun shines here, for there is no welcome.
For here lies the Crucible of the World,
No bird song, only furnace dust,
And a dead river.
For this is Sheffield Steel.

The grime covered buses arrive for Morning shift,
Windows grey with smoke,
For breakfast, Woodbines and Senior Service,
A dripping crust and a flask of tea or two
One by one, they descend,
A goliath of manhood,
Raw Power, Natures finest creation
An elephant gun would not bring these men down.

A pot of tea, another cig, then into the mill
Into the Heat, Dante’s Inferno,
Armed only with Leather Aprons and tongs,
First job, a tank Barrel,
They work as a team,

A sacred bond, forged in years of graft
Pure Strength twisting, the writhing white hot ingot,
In a rhythm, nay a dance, with a twenty ton hammer
The Grace of Men in harmony with Machine,
A rite of Passage, their inheritance

But this is also a dance with the devil,
One crack and shards of death rain upon them,
No escape, Just a Bed in Tinsley Cemetery,
Plenty of company there

Another crew tames the roaring furnace
Spewing flame, like some demonic dragon
Molten Metal, thrashes out,
Shower upon shower, of burning sparks,
That brand and seer the skin,
A steel workers tattoo of Pride

And the heat, always the heat,
Creating a perfume of toxic aftershave
A vision of Hell created by Man on Earth,

But yet through the heat and smoke, there are voices,
No Angels here,
For this is them, these Men of Steel,
“Ready for a pint”,
“Ahr lass got belly up, ”
“Stick us a ten bob on that horse”,
“Goin in club t, neight”,
“Ready for me grub”,
This is the voice of Sheffield.
No hardships, for this is their blood,
Their culture, their world

Dinner time approaches, the apprentice brings dinner
Half a loaf of bread, dug out, and filled with chips,
Plenty of Salt and Vinegar
Then a link of black pudding
Washed down with four bottles of Stones Bitter,
And a couple of woodbines
No Health and Safety here.

I pay but, a moment’s homage to this scene
For this was Sheffield Steel,
The Cog that drove the World

But Time moves on,
The steel workers and Miners, all gone
Broken By Maggie
Thrown on the scrap heap of yesterday
Sculptors of their craft,
Never to work again

Now the Rivers run clean.
And the birds sing,
And the sun, shines on the valley
But not on the Steel workers,

For they have faded away
Replaced by the souls of Progress,
Shopping Malls and stadiums
For Sheffield is now a City of Sport.
And Tourism reins King.

But spare a thought, for these Men.
Our Fathers, who lived there way,
With courage and honor
Steel was there Church,
Built on the Foundations of Pride
Their graft, a noble Calling
And sacrifice, there honor in death.

These Men who celebrated Friendship,
A pint, a smoke, and a gamble
For this was their Home, their Sheffield,
It was Their Craft, Their sweat,
That, forged the world,
And it forged me,

And now, a part of my World is lost forever.
So let the history books be kind,
And lets us remember fondly, these Men,
Made in Sheffield

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Poem Submitted: Monday, December 19, 2011

Poem Edited: Monday, December 19, 2011

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