He arrived by National Express, though
the railway remained a sporadic
possibility. Or disappointment.
Delete as appropriate.
He showed us maps and legends,
histories to explain how
we’d happened. The decades fell away
like hard black dust under the shower
as we took him from one tumulus
to the next. He took photos,
made endless notes and sketches,
and remarked upon the remarkable
uniformity of their construction,
products of a society that didn’t exist.
The suspiciously rounded, regular contours
crowned by new conifers, nature trails
and picnic areas, the distribution hubs
and technology parks sprawled just beyond.
When he asked us straight we told him
in words of one syllable
and pointed him back to the war memorial
from where he caught a return service
no one could quite recall. He left one neat
back-filled trench, about where No. 1 shaft was.
Sunday Cricket, Eastwood
Only a few steep streets of post-war semis
and 122 years
away from the famous birthplace
and the pavilion says late Edwardian
so one or two of us wonder if he ever
wandered down the hill to turn his arm over.
Early days, I mean, skies smeared with coaldust
and a world revolving slowly round the winding gear.
Before escape and TB,
savage pilgrimage or the ranch in Taos.
Today the spoil heaps are smoothed and shaped
smaller, greener, and by tea the sun has burned through,
briefly, to pick out two flocks of fantails
that flash and disappear, flash and disappear,
above the drowsing town. From across the boundary,
the smell of beer, fags and pipe tobacco
and – this he’d recognize at least – the weekend
being stretched as far as it will go.
It’s the old boys’ talk that chimes
with something half-remembered
when they dawdle to the bar at the end of the over,
point to the police chopper stopping to hover
just about where Nuthall must be, against a sky
thickening to black over Bill’s mother’s.
[Matt Merritt is a poet and journalist living near Leicester. His chapbook Making The Most Of The Light was published in 2005 by HappenStance, and his debut collection, Troy Town, was published in March 2008 by Arrowhead.]
Copyright © 2009 by Matt Merritt, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.