" ... for the labourer is worthy of his hire."

POET MINER
(Published in the New Statesman, 1953)

I crawl through all those galleries of contemplation
Where silence speaks like thought to thought and every
Grain of dust is dehydrated being,
Where mood on mood of time and calm and storm,
Colour, shape, designs compressed into the mind
That holds the secret of the first beginning.
Slowly I go, for here I know the hand
Clutching to right the stumbling foot, may tip
The balance of the world when every prop’s
A set pretence to hold up doom.

I stare from my oasis of brackish light
Into the Sahara of dreadful darkness,
And know that in that death of seeing eyes
Is sight, and in that darkest darkness light.
For as day is born of night so shall my sight
Be born of blindness.
But I remain within my lighted cell,
Dragging my lamed existence, Oedipus like,
Along the ways of artificial light,
And keep my love imprisoned in my heart,
Blowing dreams like bubbles in the air
To burst against the walls of this my hell.


MINER’S DEATH
(Published in the New Statesman, 1954)

“Joe’s been buried!” The call came
Cracking the whip of the heart,
Crying cold like wind on sweat,
And we shivered knowing our part;
Fed pity’s hungry mouth with pain
From the blow of a dirty oath,
Forgiven in humbling knees that crawled
Our prayer to the merciless earth.

With our hands, loving and hating,
We shifted the senseless stone,
Our eyes cursing the brooding roof
While we cowered in our flesh and bone.
When hope stood back, we found him
Beneath a stone eight feet by four
And eighteen inches thick. We told
His Mass in tears of sweat, and for
A hymn our silent curses sang
To the organ music of our breath,
As we broke the stone and saw
The remains of the feast of death.

The crushed thing in a clothing shroud
We rolled for the funeral journey through
The ways of darkness into the light.
There the sun shone and flowers grew
In the blessed earth as on the day
First the world was offered us.
We blinked the darkness from our eyes;
From our hearts the poisoned pus
We drew to leave the deep wound clean,
As in truth’s time we gazed again
On the shrouded thing that held
All our darkness and our pain.


FOR MY PRIVATE KEEPING

Casually I came, with casual thoughts,
Thinking of coffee or just her warming room.
Began to chat of poetry and projects,
Lit her cigarette, and stole again
The colour of her eyes for my private keeping,
And saw the darkened hollows beneath her eyes
Still taut from weeping.
She said, “a trivial thing,
A little stupid quarrel”, and talked a little,
Laughed again, and felt, she said,
“Much better” in less than half an hour.
I treasure now her sadness and pleasure,
And when I light her cigarette in future,
Shall look and take the beauty of her eyes
For my private keeping
As a gift naturally and sincerely given.