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Voices into the Dark



Voices Going Under

Stomach in knots…

A leap in the dark…



Will it be cold?

Will it be damp?


Will it be dark?



Not sure what to expect…


Curious what life was like,


Apprehensive! Apprehensive! Spine-tingling, apprehensive…



Voices Resurfacing

A leap in the dark,

Wow! Wow! And more Wow!

It was good…

It was cold…

It was exciting…

It was very noisy…


A leap down the shaft,

Dante’s Inferno,


Life I’ve never seen,

Couldn’t imagine a life like that,

Children working in the dark,

Hard living back in days.

Tour was very good,

Guide was funny,

Liked the Yorkshire accents



Back next week!

This poem has been made out of words and phrases from people waiting to go underground (1) and their reactions on returning to the surface (2) at the National Mining Museum, Wakefield.

Poem Constructed by: Claire Crossdale, Jean Hales and Dave Alton


A Proof of Colliers




Blue and green the woods,

Sunlight dancing through the trees,

It’s good to be alive…


A piece of land to call my own,

To nurture, to love, to shape.


Off t’tip again…

Yay! Bring it without and on,

Time and space to breathe.


Looking forward to better times,

But backward to what is lost.


Time for action plan,

Memorable moments: bring ‘em on.

Learn! Love! Laugh! Grow!



Long summer nights so awaited,

Spirits lifted like a mist.


Must go to Gala,

Book for Durham theatre…

Somme: Never forget.


Mother winding in the mills,

Memories of tales she told.


Beneath the green grass

Black fields are reaped and worked

Providing rich fuel.


Prance! Dance! Frolic! Cavorting!

Inhale   Exhale – Pure Freedom.



Reds and golds and greens,

Vibrant the colours she wears:

Spectacular show.


It creeps and seeps in everywhere

And makes your shoulders hunch.


Black mountains tower high,

Drifts of surplus coal matter

Scavenged for embers.


Ey up awd lad, what’s tha got?

Eee, it’s that flipping dripping.


Kicking up the leaves

Makes me feel happy, kicking coal

Makes me right mucky.



Winter’s too dark, to cold, too long,

The sky too low and heavy.


Take ‘em on – all comers,

Never give in; it’s no sin

To stand your corner.


Solidarity can arise

From discontent and fuel change.


When light dies – a cry,

Want mi dad to read to me.

Hold that lamp, we cry.


Time to move on, make a mark,

New beginnings need a spark.



Renga Poets:            Marian Barker

Claire Crossdale

Jean Hales

Renga Versewright: Dave Alton



My Disease



Latch onto my Flesh

Skin deep, injected Ink

Vessels burst, I sink


In Crimson Waters, I swim

The stench, cuts me to the core

Lost in translation; complications galore


In this place, you will have to stay

Until the Persecutor chops down, your rustic chains

Electrical volts, piercing precious veins


Like Denzel, I carry a Disease

A sandwich of words spoken; Toxic Paradiddles

Should I believe these filthy riddles?


Asphyxiated; I cannot breathe

For my Oxygen count, is severely low

And this Black Shadow, just won’t let go


Dislocated bones, no purpose served

Psychologically silent, unable to move

Embedded nails, lay in the groove


Have you caught it yet? Na da…

Invisible, I did never exist

Hallucinations added to the list!


Pitch Perfect? Hmm… Let me think

Yes… Only if you’re deluded enough to swallow

The words of those Sheep, you continue to follow


Gunshots fired; Blood trickles; feeling numb

It’s dangerous, being inside your own head

Excruciating pain, was it felt as you bled?


The Perpetrator it was always you

The Chilling Anthem, took maximum control

An Avenger in Battle, wreaking havoc to your soul


True or false? Fact or fiction? I ask

Oppressed are you? For wood chippings remain

Connections are yet to be, re-wired inside your brain


Left only with a smidgen of belief

As you have treaded Darth Vader’s Road

Lay down your ashes and destroy Da Vinci’s Code!


Quote: “Although bitten by a Crocodile; we’ll always be raised by the Sun”

{Bernadette O’Horo, 23/03/16}
















Half coiled, like a snake

In the grass

Prepared to strike.


Shaft cap capping

Uncut coal,

Lying beneath


Rural rump of

Haughland, weed

And weedy saplings.


Clearances are bound

To leave traces,

Remnants misplaced, missed:


Pithead beheaded

Brick by carted brick,

Winding gear


Wheeled away,

Gantry unstrung, but

A length of iron rope


Strands tightly wound

Around each other

To prevent their parting,


Tied tenuously

To reclaimed earth

By rusting knot.


Runners, riders, walkers,

Twitchers – none disturb

Its unnatural habitat.


Dave Alton

Easter Over Pendle


Is there still a mill,

Some weaving shed,

Warping and wefting cotton yarn

Into billowing calico

With which to shroud Pendle?


Like cotton,

Prevailing rain is an import,

Sailing over the Atlantic,

Undaunted by Ireland.

It settles to slick those old

Damp-cold millstone grit towns

That will never again weave a way

Into the fabric of national fortunes.


Blustering gusts,

As they play haunting croons

Through the Singing Ringing Tree

Planted on Crown Point,

Cannot blow down that shrouding cloud

Even as pace eggs are rolled free

By gravity.


Dave Alton



Hard blackness as brittle as bone,

Flame and smoke compressed between stone

And stone long before human eye

Looked into darkness. There, in-by,

Beneath the heavy undug earth

Were patient seams, holding their worth

Of heat and light, even while man

Scratched the surface as he began

To seek, to use, transmuting might

Of coal. No waiting for the right

Wind to blow, or the so slow, slow

Wheel turning in the race’s flow,

But power sufficient for demands

Once of gods brought to human hands.

Industry, iron and steam, foundry,

Factory and mill, folk set free

From the land for a new estate

And living by an hourly rate.

A world shrinking in proportion

To advance of locomotion,

Until even the sea’s defeat,

Sail furled by pistons’ steady beat.

Transformation for once and all,

Just possible because of coal,

Picked out from the dark damps below

By hewers and hurriers, glow

Of their lamps making slight impress

In otherwise perfect darkness.

Now, though, it seems where colliers worked

In those stygian realms, there lurked

A grim demon, an evil one

Haunting us, whose name is Carbon.

Teeth of the coal-cutter being pulled

From the face, climate change annulled

The marriage between anthracite

And progress: back into the night

Coal has been turned once more. And then

It’s the wind’s turn to turn again,

Leaving carbon captured, confined,

Seams of common wealth undermined.


Dave Alton


Seamless Change


Standing on this hill, this mounded culm, chucked

Out from hollowed earth, where darkness sucked

Men down into its precious depths, pressed them

Beneath pages of rock hard to the seam,

The black seam and all its different damps,

To pick out, despite scarred backs and leg cramps

And the wheezing of props, their value in coal.

But then, another blackening, the fall

From favour, the locking of gates, sealing

Of shafts, with a bitter present stealing

The future, leaving only heritage.

So very difficult these days to gauge

From atop this hillock of rough-grassed spoil

Where the headstock once stood. That patch of soil

And clay, fenced and sapling planted, must be

The site of the bathhouse. Not much to see

Now for joggers and dog walkers, strollers

And fly-tippers, those casual callers

Whose fleeting footfalls leave barely a mark

And no echoes deep, deep down in those dark

Galleries settling beneath a country park.


Dave Alton