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Poetry Pleases: The Mission

Jean Cowgill's evocative poem recalls days in her childhood when she carried an evening meal (snap) to her father, who worked at a local coal mine.

Red checked tea-towel
harbours Arthur’s evening meal.

Imprisoned by the need to work,
he checks the gauges, oils the machines,
closes the cage that transports
troglodytes, blind-mice, ants
to the three foot seams of rich black gold.

Had he been of a different class
he might think tiffin instead of snap.
His stomach growls, he considers his meal.
The contents of the basin, in the basket
covered by the red checked tea-towel.

Shepherds pie, without the shepherds,
liver and onion, corned beef hash.
He pauses in mid-action oil can poised
above the transverse shaft.
Tuesday: Meat and Potato pie day.

Red checked tea-towel tucked under his chin
with oily fingers he grasps the spoon.
This toddler implement ensures every
Last piece of meat, potato pie
and last drop of gravy is savoured
as he leans against the engine room door.
Corporation wine completes the meal.

The bringer of gifts, his young daughter, listens
to the pit machinery as it breathes and sighs.
Later she will carry the basket back along Pit Lane
with hawthorn in flower and birdsong in air.
Before the haw berry Arthur will be dead.

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