Arms hold the paper now
that once tattooed and blue cut coal,
fifty years a mole.
Not tall, stubborn and strong
and trusted by the men who worked his stall.
Sound below ground.
In 1926, first out, last back.
Shot rabbits for the pot.
Here he sits, spits in the fire,
drinking his tea cold, thinking.
Does he remember or forget
as he tears and folds a paper spill
to light a Player’s cigarette,
eyes distant blue, ears deaf?
Down the mine he can shut out the fact
that Jack is just a smiling photograph.
Down there you need your concentration to assess safety:
is the air pure, pit props secure,
is the dynamite right? Fright if the cage stops.
Today flood fire or burial?
Everything measured in tons.
In trying to avoid his own death,
he blanks the reality of his son’s.
Emerging, daylight illuminates the memory:
1940: Jack in a box for Christmas.
Fell out of bed from an army bunk,
Thud onto his head, body awry.
What an action to die in!
In a mine of his own darkness,
the father becomes his own pit prop
but with no dynamite to explode
the rock face of his sorrow.
His heart in a cage stopped.
I decided to be a writer at the age of eleven. Life intervened and although I kept writing and had poems published in for instance, Chapman and New Writing Scotland, it was not until last year that I published my first novel, a detective story called ‘Ivory’ and was commissioned to write a play about the history of Brodick castle for the National Trust for Scotland. This year NTS commissioned another play to commemorate WW1 on Arran and this was performed very successfully at the Community Theatre, Lamlash.
I live in Whiting Bay, am married to the painter Nicky Gill. We have 2 children and 4 grandchildren.