THE SWINGING MANDREL
Deep down below, in the bowels of the earth
a man was working for all he was worth,
swinging his mandrel into the hard coal face,
where hell would be beaten into second place.
Water drips down, in the cold damp
and the only light, comes from his cap lamp,
a place that has taken children, widows from wives.
But a special breed of men can be found
each day who go deep under the ground
getting out of bed before the larks,
and coming home when it was dark.
Never able to see the sun shine,
spending long hours in that dusty mine,
sometimes crawling, on their hands and knees
head so low, they could eat and pay the rent.
One day, as they look around
a workmate is not to be found,
"there's been fall" someone shouts,
they drop their tools to get him out.
With their bare hands, they remove the stones,
drag him to safety, tend his broken bones,
another poor soul, broken and maimed,
but an enquiry, will leave him with the blame.
Just a name and a number, a face in the crowd,
but he's alive, so lucky he wasn't in a shroud,
so, soon they find someone to take his place,
to crawl on his knees, into the coal face.
The bosses don't care, as in the office they sit,
there's nothing more important, than profit,
rats like horses are abundant and rife,
spreading disease and infection, threatening life.
The injuries received some minor, some horrific,
the once strong hands now bent and arthritic
the dust in the lung, eating into the soul
the chest heaving, the dust is now in control.
After a life time of this torture you get no thanks,
left to sit in the corner, with an oxygen tank,
it's the legacy of that dark satanic place,
stole your breath, broke your body, the horrific coal face.
Colliers forge friendships in the life down below,
and these friendships, last as older they grow,
with the swinging mandrel, the coal they attack
but you'll always have someone to watch your back.
And when you are in the showers too,
it's wash my back, I'll do the same for you",
colliers always have a special bond,
that will last for life, and beyond.
Even when good friends gather round, in suits and ties,
to say their final goodbyes,
you never will ever be forgotten by true friends,
these friendships they will never end.
The stories you left, are etched in the heart,
although now, your friend must depart,
as you look across at the faces so sad,
and think about the good times you had.
You worked hard in the face, that living hell,
with just enough room, for swinging mandrel,
but at the grave, they all look around,
and think, who will we put next in the ground!
After being slaves to the dust, for so many years,
whose family will be next, to shed the tears,
which widow will be the next to apply for a grant
for the men in grey suits to say, that sorry they can't
After working all your life for a pittance of a pay
a doctor will say "there's no dust on the x-ray",
so once more, another good man will fall,
another victim, of the swinging mandrel.
Copyright Ralph Jones.