Down the long throat of shaft their bodies caged
in bony stoops, rammed joints, scrubbed skin,
they’re heard now for that guttural crack
back of the throat brimmed cough,
its spittle of spent black dust
from an earth-life below,
deep-down as the pockets of city toffs.
They lived by tonnage and beamed light,
the shot-blown or bad dreamed blast. The wedge
of each pit prop a third arm or handy leg
that helped raise the sunken roof of seam.
Hackers, drillers at the unbroken face,
they broke through, they broke through,
digging out what spoke for them.
G.F. Phillips (1949 – 2017)