At Durham Cathedral

In the Book of Remembrance here the men’s cold

Corpses were laid out

Stout fellows with no life-doubt, hewers of the

Coal; born fathers of their footsteps tramping to the

Coalface, heaving, they tramp them back again

And take the hoist going groaning like a keening

Locomotive; steaming iron aching against iron

All the livelong way

At breakneck rate from top to bottom, base to

Top, weight moans, and in the dark all day they play

But for old Davy’s crazy lamp that dazzles minstrel grinning smiles

Of white, white teeth; bright shiny camaraderie

 

Forty-one years, fifty-eight years, and one threescore

Before the rising of the dust had settled hashes on

The lung enough to dampen passage, push a pass

Through rough and gasping in and out a lifelong time

Had having passed at raising of the coal

 

Then all the while a thunderclap of trolleys

Detonating, concatenating, breaking in on ears

Ecstatic clack-clack, tap tap tap, to pick-axe

Claw the coal; winning it from reluctant Mother Earth,

That she who formed it

 

Rackets rattle seemingly go like

A ride, set time going speeding by, activity and life

Silted lifted quite away as draft will drain an hourglass;

All profusion in illusion in compact collusion

Life torn out a peril, like a thorn, by men men fitted up

To such unlucky birth; birth-called, keelhauled, called-out

To serve time underground

 

And underground in dust now resting indecorously

It’s this, this Book of Life is where this Church

Remembers them, their only coda; page runs after page

In utterance of one-note agony

An orgy of fair generations drowned, thrown down

Below ground, separated blank as blackness

 

Blisters to clog their lungs, and grit to permeate

Adulterate their foods and fingers, deepest stains of grains

Declare the air their consequent communities bespotting

Coal, like a weather, covering everything in ill-got inverse snow,

Bringing on heats and smogs, and sweated stunted

Cheery souls, whose deaths too early predicate

Cold relegation posthumously

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