PORTRAITS FROM MEMORY

by Barry Tebb

I

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.

II

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

The sunlight.

III

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.

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