David Lewis Paget
The Slag Heap - Poem by David Lewis Paget
He'd never forgotten the heap of slag
That sat beside the mine,
It blocked the sun from his morning walk
With its shadow, so sublime,
It grew to hover above his home
From the time that he was three,
Its overpowering vastness grew
Not slow, but steadily.
And every time that the wind would blow
Its dust would fill the air,
Would saturate every cranny, even
Darken his mother's hair,
The coal dust strangled their garden bed
So not a thing would grow,
And filled up his father's lungs with dust
Each time that he went below.
The more that they mined the deeper coal
The higher it grew, the heap,
It spread away from the poppethead
Was covering up the street,
They tried to manage the monster but
It grew out of control,
With every truckload of slag they dumped
From where they mined the coal.
At night it loomed like a giant bat
With its shadow on the ground,
Gleaming black in the moon's pale beam
It terrorised the town,
‘I don't like walking at night out there, '
You'd hear the women say,
‘That heap is covering Satan's lair
We need to get away.'
But nobody ever got away,
At least, not with their soul,
They'd sold their souls to the devil, and
Were tied to the monster, coal,
The men came home with their faces black
And their hands all scarred and torn,
For coal mining is the sort of job
You are cursed with, when you're born.
And he was taken to work the mine
When he'd barely turned just six,
His father said, ‘Well, I think it's time,
You can leave behind your tricks, '
They showed him how he could work the fan
To fill the mine with air,
And there he worked twelve hours a day
While he learned the word ‘Despair'.
His father died when a prop collapsed
And they had to leave him there,
Under a hundred tons of coal
But the owners didn't care,
They simply began another drive
To make up the owner's loss,
Whether the miners lived or died
Their lives were seen as dross.
So Andrew, that was the orphan's name
Went down between the shifts,
He took some fuel and matches down
He'd long been planning this,
He managed to start a coal seam fire
That roared by the morning sun,
And smoke poured out of that poppethead,
While they raged, ‘What has he done? '
But Andrew never emerged again
To pay for the thing he'd done,
He'd told his sister to write a note,
‘I did it for everyone! '
His bones lie charred where his father fell,
Under a hundred ton,
They couldn't put out the coal seam fire,
The father lies with the son.
8 January 2016
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