Phil Wood

Dowd's Wharf

The mud's a grey unhealthy skin
where the neap tide lingers. This Usk
is never clean, but its mud gleams
as if the stars have found their nest
along with trolleys and rusted drums.
This river wharf is colder than home.

He calls it kedging, turning the ship
around. It's brimming with scab coal.
He says there is a pretty Usk
frothing with healthy trout. There's mud
in Birmingham, but not like this.
Where's the sea of tranquillity? I ask.

He shrugs.
He has mud hands like mine.

Pneumoconiosis

A mistle thrush pecking a stone
that is bone white. The river's drought
a blistered thirst that mirrors mine.

The Welsh dresser displays the dust
of Portmeirion plates and there's Gran
cutting a slab of marble cake.

The Oakdale mine is hacking black lungs
to rags. All hear that rasp and know,
but still the kettle steams for tea.

Grandad, whiskered, mouthing air
as if a fish with pulsing gills.
I want to share my slice of cake.

Phil Wood © 2015