Thought they’d done all they ought, these men
Re-appearing above ground as photographic negatives
Blackface and white around the eyes.
At the end of their shift – cages for coal monkeys,
Coming up to see children set free by parents’ lives laid waste.

Above the village, the ridge of tippings tips over.
Shale and slurry left over from mining coal,
A glistening sludge licks down the hillside faster than a running man,
Moist and hard like the tongue of Time itself,
Then swallows the schoolchildren whole.

From just before the First World War, fifty years of men hollowed out,
Lives worked out (Not so bad, now there’s pithead baths
And no charge for the doctor), their husks hanging high above the next generation.
Check to see if it’s piled up safely….
No time to waste on that.