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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

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