THE FLICKERING LIGHT

 

Lying here with nothing left but to reflect on the things

I have, and haven’t done yet, feel my body

deteriorate, feel my illness advance

the things I’ve not done, now I won’t get a chance.

 

Different doctors I see, same questions they ask

I try to tell them through an oxygen mask

“How are you feeling, are you well

is the mask helping to breathe?",“it’s difficult to tell”.

 

Point to my chest, as they ask “is it your lungs?”

but before I answer the examination has begun

pyjama top open, prodding with icy cold hands

talking in words I don’t know, nor understand.

 

More x-rays, scans and blood tests to see how my illness has progressed,

then see the doctor, called in by a nurse

I can see by his face,

my condition is worse.

 

See his lips moving, don’t want to hear the words,

can’t take it in, what I’ve just heard, as he looks at the x-ray

the shadows on the lungs I knew then,

that there was no more could be done.

 

Lying here reminiscing, about long lost, better days

as the medication takes the pain away

hallucinating, dreaming, glassy eyed

thoughts turn back to my long departed bride.

 

My childhood sweetheart, my guiding light

since she’s been gone, I’ve shed a tear each night

it’s many years, since up to Heaven she’s gone

lost without her, but for my family I stay strong.

Memories flood back, of my days in the mines

when my father took me, for my very first time

the first time in the bond, what a story to tell

told my grand children, “it was like dropping to hell”.

 

At six o’clock in the morning, your day starts 

as you walk to a place, as black as the devils heart

the fireman tests, with a blue dim flame

for the presence of firedamp, or methane.

 

into the coal face, a humid, damp, sweaty place

bent over, crawling, to a dark and cramped space

where your only friend is the flickering light

of your cap lamp, shining bright.

 

The dust it engulfs you, like a black evil shroud

as you listen for sounds, for rumblings all around

while the perils of methane, is always there

invisible, tasteless, but deadly, so take care

 

My father said, “a days hard work never hurt me”

there are men in the grave who wouldn’t agree

good hard men, who worked their way into a tomb

mourning friends, thinking whose next to succumb.

 

Now laying on a bed, as the family gather

crying, wheezing, gasping, tearfully watching me dying

a proud honest man, still full of fight

as the dust chokes out the last flickering light.

 

Final breath taken, no more suffering,

no more pain, friends gather and wait,

in the howling rain to say their final farewell

to a man, who had so many stories to tell.

 

See familiar faces, only seen on these sad days

getting fewer each time, as they slowly pass away

good colliers, who are also lifelong mates 

together for the last time, at the graveyard gates.

 

He’s back now with the woman he loved so much,

the wife he missed, her kisses, her touch

up in heaven, again they will meet

at the pearly gates, as she waits for him to greet.

 

But not being a man to go quietly to his grave,

a few words were written, by this man so brave

don’t mourn for me, as I’m not alone and

please put these words, on my headstone

  

“When I die, don’t let the word spread 

I must be in heaven, before the devil knows I’m dead

for if he find out, and reads my obituary

he’ll tell all his friends, this soul is for me.”

Copyright Ralph Jones.

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