Out of the corner of my eye
I spy a girl chasing a ball
spinning down the sloping streets.
The terraces thread the cwm, glisten
a rosary of hope. Through the rain
ghosts of truant boys hurtle past.
Their hair's wetted coal-black; their eyes
water weighted, near blind;
they chase the girl pursuing her world.
The wind is a miner whistling tunes
out of habit. The shift's over -
the mine sparkles a bracelet of ponds.
These ghosted boys, their molecules
shimmer in watery lungs: they're out
of breath. The girl splashes puddles.
The body of a miner is sixty
percent water. It's less for wives.
And when I knock on my gran's door
I hear the slowness of her tears
soften my words. I unwrap gossip.
Her boys are long departed.
Clay clung to her boots -'ta-ra' she heard, 'ta-ra'
and she saw them all marching proud and then
the whistle blew. She heard their panting fear
running until beyond the trenches her boy
anonymous, wedded with wire, unblinking
across a conscripted land. With poppy-red
lips she kissed her soldier boy and bedded
the mud with memories, gunsmoke clouds
Phil Wood © 2016