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last update:
10 Jun24

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Empty trains pass without stopping,
smoky dust balls roll with empty cans,
a pigeon pecks at a discarded crisp packet.
It no longer matters. I arrive in time
to see you slip in and out of sleep,
hair in a quiff like your photos as a boy.
A gouge, blue-black, dug in your cheek,
from days spent down the pit. I wait
in silence. Only salvoes of footsteps,
nurses peer in. Morphine-drowsed,
you mouth the air. I lean in close
Terry, it’s me, your cockney cousin.
You say It’s only the two of us now.
Thirty years earlier, I wait outside the prefab
in a row cut through the valley, shadowed
by the pit head. A boom shudders the air.
Women spill out, standing on doorsteps.
My Auntie Gladys twisting her hands
in her cross-over pinny. A thick silence,
the noise of an ambulance getting closer,
disappearing. Someone running,
breathless, shouting only one casualty.
And you coming home, your face striped
with coal dust, pale circles around your eyes.
You pick me up, swing me in sooty hands.

Judith Wozniak

Published in ARTEMISpoetry issue 28, 2022