PORTRAITS FROM MEMORY by Barry Tebb
Through my bedroom window
The coal carts jolted over the cobbles
A slow heavy rhythm full,
Light and fast returning empty.
The coal office manager was a dwarf
With sixty year old skin
On a ten year old’s body and
Hornrims on a wizened wizard’s face.
The enormous shire horses neighed
In warning if you went near,
Their polished brasses gleaming,
Their worn blinkers waxed;
When they brought in lorries
A two year old died
On the first day.
Behind a creosoted fence lay
The goodsyard with a single line
Where LMS wagons shunted from Barnsley
With wet coals gleaming
All the way to Neville Hill.
I never connected the clanking wagons
With our weekly coalmen, their faces
Black like miners, their backs bent
Under hundred weight sacks.
They dumped each load to scree
Down the cellar grate,
Its jet-dust choking
Behind the goodsyard lay the woodyard
With slender knotted planks stacked round.
One night it got alight, the heat
Cracked my window but I never woke.
When I read of the burning of Troy
I remember Standish’s wood yard fire.