He'd worked at the pit since he was ten,
Was quite at home in the dark,
Worked by the light of a miner's lamp
Avoided the slightest spark,
He chipped away at the face of coal,
He chewed tobacco, and spat,
His face was black as he wandered home
With pride in his miner's hat.
But the mine had closed as it petered out
And the miners went on the dole,
While Jack Coltrane had fretted at home
For his work was his very soul,
The entrance tunnels were sealed up tight
And the Colliery wheel was stopped,
It sat like an aging dinosaur
Set high on its wooden props.
The miners drifted away for work
The walls of the houses cracked,
The doors and windows were boarded up
The only one left was Jack,
He wandered lonely about the streets
Of the place he had always known,
The empty terraces, vacant shops
In the town that he'd called his home.
I'd gone to squat in an empty house
I was down on my luck back then,
And Jack had knocked on my nailed up door,
I told him my name was Ben,
He'd pop around for a morning tea
And he'd tell me tales of the mine,
His eyes would gleam with excitement when
He talked of the dust and grime.
‘I'll take you there, and show you the pit.'
He knew I'd never been down,
‘What else is to do in a place like this, '
He said, and I must have frowned.
‘There's nothing to worry about, old son,
Just wrap up well for the cold,
It used to be hot in the workings then,
But we'll be looking for gold.'
He said he knew where the traces were,
He'd seen it a thousand times,
‘The owners only wanted the coal
So we left the rest behind,
There's not a lot, but enough for us,
We'll chip out a tidy sum.'
That's all I needed to know, I went
And put some old denims on.
The mine was scary for one like me
Who'd never been down a pit,
So dark and damp, and the air was still,
I hated the smell of it,
We need to go down 300 feet
He said, not batting an eye,
I trudged along in his wake, and thinking:
‘Why did I come - Oh why? '
We saw the first few traces of gold
At the thirty fathom mark,
But Jack said, ‘Still there's a way to go, '
And he trudged along in the dark,
We walked around the falls from the roof
Where the props had given way,
It was far too late to be turning back
Though I felt a mute dismay.
Suddenly there was a gleam ahead
Lit up by our feeble lamps,
And Jack had hurried ahead to check
What gleamed in the rising damp,
Behind a fall I could see a sight
That will haunt me ‘til I'm old,
A skeleton lay in the passageway,
A skeleton covered in gold.
‘He must have been here a hundred years, '
Said Jack, ‘and there is the proof,
The fall has only revealed him now
The gold has leached from the roof,
It's covered this poor old-timer's bones
He's worth more now that he's dead, '
But then the end of the tunnel glowed
And a voice boomed in my head.
‘Who desecrates my dominions,
Who approaches me in their pride?
You come to my underground kingdom
Where another before you died! '
The voice came up through a hole in the ground
That glowed like a fire was lit,
‘Retreat, or I'll tear you asunder,
I'm the Guardian of the Pit! '
I don't know how we got out that day
We stumbled and ran to hide,
We thought the demon was at our heels
As we caught at our breath, and cried,
We fell out into the open air
And breathed again at the last,
I said, ‘I'll never go down again! '
Jack said, ‘It must have been gas! '
‘It must have been just a pocket of gas
That we breathed, that knocked us out,
It was just a hallucination
That's for sure, ' said Jack, ‘No doubt! '
But he never went down the mine again,
He said he was 'over it',
But truth to tell, he was scared as hell
Of the Guardian of the Pit!
21 October 2012
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.