Guest poem sent in by Dave Fortin
(Poem #1385) Miners
There was a whispering in my hearth, A sigh of the coal, Grown wistful of a former earth It might recall. I listened for a tale of leaves And smothered ferns, Frond-frosts, and the low sly lives Before the fauns. My fire might show steam-phantoms simmer From Time's old cauldron, Before the birds made nests in summer, Or men had children. But the coals were murmuring of their mine, And moans down there Of boys that slept wry sleep, and men Writhing for air. And I saw white bones in the cinder-shard, Bones without number. Many the muscled bodies charred, And few remember. I thought of all that worked dark pits Of war, and died Digging the rock where Death reputes Peace lies indeed. Comforted years will sit soft-chaired, In rooms of amber; The years will stretch their hands, well-cheered By our life's ember; The centuries will burn rich loads With which we groaned, Whose warmth shall lull their dreaming lids, While songs are crooned; But they will not dream of us poor lads, Left in the ground.
Tuesday, November 4th, marked the 85th anniversary of Wilfred Owen's death. He was killed in action on the Oise-Sambre Canal near Ors one week before the Armistice was signed. The above poem is one of my favorites by Owen. He originally meant to write about a mining accident at Podmore Hill Colliery, Halmerend that killed 140 men and boys. In a letter to a friend, he writes "Wrote a poem on the Colliery Disaster: but I get mixed up with the War at the end." The list has a number of poems by Owen and other poets from WWI. In thinking about the congruence of poetry and war, I came across a passage in one of Erich Maria Remarque's novels, The Black Obelisk (1957): "I push the poems aside. They suddenly seem to me flat and childish, typical of the attempts almost every young man makes at one time or another. I began to write during the war, but then it made some sense--for minutes at a time it took me away from what I was seeing. It was like a little hut of protest and of belief that something else existed beyond destruction and death." Dave Fortin