Bowed down and coughing in his plastic coat,
Smiling still into his final days
As if to thank the world for what,
Just standing coughing his life away?
Perhaps there’s a part of his heart still sings
When he hears the flutter of a pigeon’s wings.
Does his mind remember the full days when
He was young and standing straight again?
Watching the sky for the speck of a bird
And the neighbours laughing at the sound they heard
As he called his pigeon from its circling flight.
Then the flash of the blue and the flash of the white
As his hands so gently take the ring from its leg
And he whispers sweet nothings the one he calls Peg.
She’d be the only one he called the love of his life
And everyone knew it, his daughters, his wife.
It was not for the winnings, such a paltry sum,
But it was for the glory and the fact he’d become
Such a part of a pairing with his queen of the sky
And the whole of his being with the bird up on high.
For his youth was squandered as he filled his role
In the depths of the pit fighting hard for the coal
Like his grandfather, dad and his brothers too,
Just fulfilling the role they were all born to do.
And before they were fifty with the fighting the coal
They were fighting for breath as they quickly grew old.
And before they were sixty there were so many dead
With the rest gasping, wheezing, all their manliness shed.
It’s all part of his memory as he stands in the street
In his old plastic coat with the spit at his feet.
He had not long to go now, he knew that damn well
“The bronchitis.” they said. They can all go to hell
Where the mine owners were. He had seen it before
In his dad and his mates, they were sick to the core.
The word never spoken, the men called it dust
The pneumoconiosis, they knew lungs were bust.
Why were none of them bitter? They were born to this life,
And expected no better just to struggle and strive.
It was work, then allotment, and pigeons, and pub
But for those with the winners, they were part of a club
That wore medals on watch chains, had cups on display.
This was life after death that made each working day
Touch the mystery of life. And the birds as they flew
Took the hearts of the men, although each of them knew
That the freedom they saw in the birds and their flight
Was as likely for them as their dreams in the night
While they lived. But there was one who thought
That, one day somewhere else, when the battle was fought
There the last race was won. In a soft, quiet place.
Every bird in its loft and a prayer, just a grace
To say thank you for breath to enjoy this short space.
In his final few days sitting there in his loft
He was watching for Peg to come cooing so soft.
But his bird was long gone, as he lay down to die
In a place where he listened, looked up to the sky.
Perhaps it was then, as he gave up life’s lease,
His bird soared him away to the place of pure peace.
And now Jamie can fly for the first ever time
With the love of his life. To the heavens they climb
They are out every moment of the hourless day
No prizes to win, but just look how they play.
Soaring, diving, a tumble, a glide here and there.
Always as one in the sky that they share
With the angels.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
When I married his daughter He was being treated for Bronchitis but when he died the post mortem shows Pneumoconiosis. His widow did not receive a penny of compensation.
I was one of four brothers working in the pit in spite of the fact that Dad had been killed at Bestwood pit in 1940 leaving six children. A short piece of writing helped get me out of the pit after nine years working on the coal face. I have been Chair of Malvern Writers' Circle and have two of my books selling on Amazon and various other sites. Married at eighteen and widowed forty years later I came to Malvern and shortly after married a local woman who has made me the luckiest and happiest of men.