Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Voices in the Coalshed

Out from the Darkness

A voice deep within the Coalshed calls out,
“I know there are people with words about,
People who’ve something that they want to say;
That’s you! So don’t let you thoughts slip away.
A story, a poem, a humorous tale,
An anecdote, a notion that can’t fail
To enlighten, entertain or amuse,
With rhymes, without rhymes, anyway you choose.
And then, when your say has been said,
Wing it through cyberspace to the Coalshed.
How many words? One hundred more or less;
The challenge? The theme?
Out from the Darkness.
(90 words)
Dave Alton
(Writer in residence – National Coal Mining Museum)

Please send to:             

   Dog Days Of COVID Summer

I radiate low esteem.
So much so that flies
sometimes can mistake me for
a piece of horseshit.


I feel marginal.
Buried in obscurity.
Alive but not quite.

 On Another Hand

Thoroughly reliable
with a constant mood --
man of immense appetite,
energy for life.

 Breakfast In Bed

Though never feel, “Don’t
have enough,” always connive
to get more and more.

Gerard Sarnat


Nick loves walking on summer evenings when pale blue mingles with pink shrouds, especially when the moon rises, a luminous disc, orange or a pale lady. Too many corpses, more statistics, curves. He walks with methodical steps, absorbing shadows in country roads, deep and pink, dancing, darting. He observes leaning pines, each curved branch, lights from cabins snaking through pines, he is welcome. He walks slower and slower. The night settles, pale blue turned black. The morning knocks, a little too bright, country roads weary with dirt, the pines precarious. The shadows dart and dance. They can’t block the sun.

Yash Seyedbagheri


Like that weary rose,
the heart is under threat,
could succumb to the current,
go with the most convenient flow,
open to the sky’s scattered cumulus,
but wanting so much to avoid recriminations,
or to berate the weather for minor lapses
in years gone by,
a reasoning that scolds his instincts
with disquieting joy.

Reason is a trusting light, in its way,
placates the iris, wakens the sparrow’s trill.
And Fall nurtures with fluent
predictability, by shifting slightly, can be where
the stream’s downy current engulfs
and then, with unabashed adoration,
once more prove dedication,
unsullied, unrestricted,
avenge the solitary heart
given the strength to confess its trust,
all that a nurtured existence finds exemplary.

John Grey

From Coal to Dust

Streams of coal dust settle in wrinkles,
a trade ingrained forever in skin.
Egg white eyes with blue yolks
announce his Celtic origin.

Black seams of coal snake through
Welsh valley and Yorkshire dale.
Miners bent double hack away
with pick and shovel at the shale.

Coal dust turns lungs to black,
slithering unseen inside.
Shifting tons of dirty slack,
while black lung rots flesh to dust.

Now the pit heads turn no more,
their wheels confined to rust.

Sheila Kinsella

A miner and his daughter (Part 1)

He came down on his bike, she says. Bramley to Betteshanger
following the black seam.
Ants across June asphalt to drill their colonies.
Genteel Deal hung out her signs; no dogs or miners.
Shops flung cheap chops at wives
hands boiled raw, scrubbing since dawn
in the steaming shadow of the sheave wheels.
Shifts leave pitch-blind.
Face silhouettes with pinhole eyes.
Coughed his lungs up, she says. Pit dirt did him over.
Insides dark as the Kent shafts,
blood runs black.
Coal dust settles on clean sheets
seals the white seams of his skin.

Helen Price

Out From the Darkness

Out from the darkness at the end of the day

The miners emerge without much pay

A long hard shift so bleak and dreary

Swathed in blackness, tired and weary

Dismal faces daren’t look to the skies

They blink as the daylight hurts their eyes

Whilst surfacing from the murky depths

In sombre mood they catch their breaths

Filling their shadowy lungs with air

Sinister coughs are everywhere

Out from the darkness at the end of the day

The miners emerge without much pay


Dark Memory

I have seen the lengths darkness will go to,
Its height, too low for comfort, and its breadth
So narrow it is closing in it seems.
There are those who’ve measured it with their lives,
Precisely calibrated increments
Of sweat.
Hope rises in cages loaded
With cutting jokes brighter than lamps,
Or weighted with spent banter winding up
From where once the darkness was hewn, kibbled
And hurried towards the sun.
I have stood
Between trapdoors and listened to darkness
Flooding the galleries, feeling that light
Has to be taken with a pinch of snuff.

Dave Alton