Black Gold

Black Gold

A Poem by David Lewis Paget

The Dad was dour, his face was sour

When he came home from the pit,

He looked like a furnace stoker but

That wasn’t the half of it…

His fists were like a couple of hams

And he used the blighters, too,

The Mam would hear his foot on the step

And hurry to serve his stew.

 

She wore his bruises over her face,

Her arms and her legs and more,

I’d seen her body all over then

For I was coming-up four,

I’d watched the blood run down her leg

As she cleaned herself with a rag,

Whenever he’d come home roaring drunk,

Use Mam as a punching bag!

 

My sister Else was barely ten

When he made her work at the pit,

She struggled to push a cart of coal

Until she was almost sick.

The manager was a brutal man

With a knotted, leather strap,

If Else was slow or got vertigo

He’d lay it across her back!

 

I never heard Mam complain to him,

I guess that she didn’t dare,

She’d rub some cream into Else’s wounds

And run a brush through her hair.

‘It’s hard, but you’ll toughen up, my girl,

He said, as a sort of scold,

‘You’d better respect what we’re mining here,

Just think of it as Black Gold!’

 

‘Think of it as Black Gold,’ he’d said…

(The sort that gets into your pores,

The dust that gives you a crippled lung

And your skin gets covered in sores.

The cough that’s keeping the house awake

When everyone needs to sleep,

The sulphur smell round the chimney-piece

As you watch your mother weep!)

 

He dragged me out, and he took me in

When I was only eight,

He said, ‘Now look here, fella-me-lad,

It’s time that you pulled your weight!’

They started me at tuppence a day

And sat me down in the shaft,

I had to open and close a trap

To help to create the draught.

 

The hours were long, the days were long

We worked a twelve hour shift,

It took me an hour to get to the face,

Clambering over the drift,

I didn’t get time to go to school,

Still sign my name with an ‘x’,

But I’m learning now at the Institute

Just to try for a little respect!

 

When I was ten, they sent me down

With a pick to the old coal face,

Where miners hammered and banged like hell

And they tried to make me race,

Poor Else, still pushing the trucks of coal,

Her back had formed in a hump,

The boys would whistle and jeer at her

For her legs were like two stumps.

 

New-fangled ships were coming in,

The ones of steel and steam,

‘It’s only good for the working man,’

The Dad said: ‘Good for the team!’

But some of the stopes were caving in

The mine was in full retreat,

We’d pull what pillars of coal were left

And send them up to the street.

 

The Dad was working the furthest pitch

While Else sat crippled and old,

She’d ripped a tendon and looked quite lost

As she sat by a pillar of coal,

She waved me away to the further stope

And attacked the coal with a pick,

The pillar came suddenly crashing down

And the roof  -  it followed it!

 

I never saw Mam cry for The Dad,

She cried for our Else instead,

‘She never had much of a life at all,

I’m glad the old bugger’s dead!’

Now the years have passed, and I understand

That The Dad was true to his kind,

He never had much of a chance at all

And he’s buried, still in the mine!

 

David Lewis Paget


© 2012 David Lewis Paget



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Well done, my fellow bard. This story can still relate to current events of today, especially in the societies we are members of. One thing I thought was very ironic was the fact that the father was buried from the start( in life and even death). Your imagery was also quite remarkable. Great job, David.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Wonderful story-telling. I enjoyed reading this. :)

Posted 3 Years Ago


wonderful metered prose ..truly a bard he t'is

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Truly amazing!!!!!!!

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

[send message][befriend] Subscribe
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Well done, my fellow bard. This story can still relate to current events of today, especially in the societies we are members of. One thing I thought was very ironic was the fact that the father was buried from the start( in life and even death). Your imagery was also quite remarkable. Great job, David.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

As always you tell the story in a way that makes it an experience. This is so sad...brutally vivid.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Good..!!

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Thanks for sharing this poem. I think that this story is universal in its meaning and expresses well human endurance and resilience. People in your poem have strong characters. I like the rhythm, it goes so well with the story. Your poem brought in my mind a sad story: the woman who encouraged me to start writing poems at the end of 2006 died of lung cancer a few weeks ago because she worked in a typography, she had what is called a professional disease. May she rest in peace. Maybe the conditions for such workers improved since those days. Like that black gold in your poem she gave black gold to others and to herself.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A powerful poem. I believe people don't know the reason for unions. Men would work from sun-up to sun-down for little pay and reward. The story had a feel of real and I could feel the hardships of people born to work and then died. I like the mother's regret for child and little for husband lost in the mines. Thank you for the outstanding story.
Coyote

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

LOVE this too. Not much for these kinds of struggles, but done so that you feel it. Excellent like reading a short story even though it's a poem. Narrated very well.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

My father worked in the coal mines of West Virginia and Kentucky, from the time he was ten until he managed to get a scholarship to college at the ripe young age of 17. As a boy, he was worked mercilessly and witnessed many a mans untimely demise down in those cold, dank chambers of horrors. Your poem brought to mind memories of some of those stories he shared with me growing up.
Very well done!

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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46 Reviews
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Added on June 17, 2012
Last Updated on July 15, 2012
Tags: pit, fists, bruises, stope

Author

David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



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