A Colliery Boyhood by Bruce Harris

Helmet men, black-rimmed eyes,
surprising smiles like rueful ghosts;
weekend Teds, blue black jackets,
threat defined in hair and shoes;
Thubron’s sweet shop, joy jar universe,
big brown counters scarred and scrubbed;
chimney smoke rows, static liners,
toilets tacked behind like trailers;
heavy choke air, coke burnt remnants,
in and out of throat and nostrils.

Outhouse boy lofts, seedy sanctuaries,
surreptitious smokes and jokes;
smashed roof skylight panoramas,
dares to clamber cracking tiles;
tyre swings tied on long thick nooses,
mad dip views at crazy angles;
deserted truck yard, metal debris,
rats like cats in darkened chassis;
neat dark gold-badged Grammar jackets,
dangerous wearing after dark.

Belisha beacons disturbed in winter,
deranged aliens' orange flashing;
flapping back yard smalls like flags,
a semaphore of collective panic.
Slag heap shadowing junior school yard,
one more slumbering Aberfan;
red gold gorgeous film emporium,
noisy Zorro matinees;
brown and red hung hairy corpses
outside butcher’s blue white tiles.

Chips in off white upturned witch hats,
pull face salt and vinegar smothered;
skiddy skating streaked white pavements
level skiing on leather shoe soles;
snail ascents on gun grey mornings,
pelting descents on dark afternoons;
bubble gum cards with countries' flags;
farthing chews and rough little fags;
midget gems and black gum treats,
epic days in orgies of time.

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