Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The village in 1950


The village remembered, of moon and sun,
of pulpit and pub. Trains that pass in the night.
Saddle tanks that rape the whistle darkness,
below the running sores that gutter
the white guts out of the fox-stoled village.

Firemen, soaked in red sweat, shovel coal
into the boilers on the single line,
released by the signal box key,
handed, signal man to driver, pouched and shining.
Sliding along the frosty rails between
Dante’s cupolas, belching and flickering
under the pulse of clouds. Tall chimney fingers
that claw at the coke sky. The sulphur,
the sulphur, the colour of old men’s phlegm.

The pub men, dart-shadowed on the window,
or in silhouette, busting their way to the outside privy,
their pint-sized thoughts running one handed, 
down the stalls, 
groaned in deep breaths down the walls of their valley.
The morning, through the bottom of their glasses,
glows far away, sad upon their laughter.
The raucous goodnights to bed,
until their work boots beat the wet pavements of dawn. 
The dusk pubs, the light at the end of their tunnel vision,
a thirst throughout the day, today and every day.

The classroom children flutter, and leave the sun
to wander the empty slag-stoned streets,
the cobbled soles of the village.
Polished on every doorstep by scarfed mothers
with pails full of gossip and knowing nods
of so and so, and so it goes, on and on.
Father, mother, daughter, son.
Chapel, church and pub.
The beauty of the beast,
that was my village in 1950.

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