David Davies

A mile and a half of industrial darkness,

borne by the hill.

The men who died here left no ghosts,

their bones already bleached by the owners.

Black in their lungs, the blast dust

took most of them before thirty-five.

The boys, too young to sink-bore the pit,

picked specks of stone unless, in answer to

a winter prayer, the water froze.

But mostly it flowed, filling their fathers’ boots

as it soaked in from below.

Did they really name you Killhope?

The death of hope, the murder of it,

when this horizontal hole brought forth

the bounties on which the village was built.

Lead mining. Toxic in its extraction,

toxic in its ingestion, priceless.

On the roofs of churches in which you sat.

Or maybe slate around here; cheaper.

From the pit to ground level,

up to the chapel rooftops and

onward to heaven. A noble progression for anyone.

Maybe. Maybe slow death was as acceptable as any,

a shrinkage rather than a curtailing

although that certainly happened as well.

The spark from the tamping rod

because copper was too expensive.

An early ignition. A cave-in.

A bright flash in the darkness and then darkness.

Now we pay our money to walk in the same darkness

and wade in the same water flowing out of the hill.

It’s almost vulgar. And yet.

And yet the place is a monument, as is

the learning of the lives and histories.

The families. The miner rescued,

alive because he ate his tallow candle

and stood on the wood of the shaft for three days.

Three nights down here. A miracle!

Right to celebrate, as we commend

our own return to the outside light

after only an hour—maybe less—

to find the sun setting behind the hollowed hills

and on an industrial land

damaged in equal by its presence and removal.

David Davies is a writer and poet, a two-time King Edward Youth Poetry Award winner. He has recently been featured in Rise Up Review, Poems and Ponderings, and The Showbear Family Circus, and you can find him @5linestogo on Twitter where he tries to write something topical/political daily.