The creaking front door.
A man rises from his bed, before the sun in the sky above
and silently leaves his wife, and the family he loves
as he goes and opens the rickety, creaking front door
walking quietly as his hob nail boots scrape across the floor.
Looking back towards the stairs
he blows a kiss to his family sleeping up there
stepping out into the frosty early morning air still in the dark, there is no sunlight there.
But sunlight is a thing that he knows little of
when walks down the street, and clears his throat with a cough
he feels the tightness in his chest
as he looks up the hill, to see the pit shaft’s silhouette.
A man as quiet as a lamb but as hard as nails,
a real gentleman a man as big and strong as an oak
who once could take you down,
with a single stroke.
A man whose hands have paid their dues
but those same hands now, fingers twisted, scarred and blue
he fills his water jack, and collects his lamp
greets his best friend, and slowly walks up the ramp.
His best friend by his side, he walks up to the pit top
his best friend whistling cheerfully, he never stops
but this friend means a lot to him
a friend that has stuck with him, through thick and thin.
Has his final smoke, leaves a cigarette and a match in a tin
and hides them in the hitcher’s cabin
everybody knows his hiding place
it might not be there when he finishes his shift in the face.
Get into the cage, just as daylight starts to dawn
when he comes back up, the sun may be gone
they walk into a dark demonic place
the damp unyielding coal face.
Deep underground, as close to Hell as you can get
hot and humid, he’ll soon be soaking in sweat
crouched up digging, upon his knees
his friend next to him, still whistling cheerfully.
He battles with the coal face, that is as hard as flint
through the dust and the gloom, he can do no more than squint
always listening for the timbers to creak
keeping an eye on his oil lamp flame, as the firedamp it seeks.
If the timbers crack, or if the flame starts to dance
get out as quick as you can, you don’t take a chance
but this day is like no other
as the gas takes his friend, never to recover.
In amongst the grunts and the groans
there’s the sound of silence, as if he’s all alone
he sees his friend is lying on the floor
and the whistling can be heard no more.
He carries his friend out of the face,
to some cleaner air but there’s no sign of life there
he’s whistled his last song
and with great sorrow, he knows his friend is gone.
To see this big strong man weep
as he looks down on his friend, still hoping he’s asleep
but he knows deep down inside
that his friend so dear, has sadly died.
Copyright Ralph Jones