If coal were sand
My daughter’s dug a moat for me.
The beach has come to Hickman Park
in Bilston by the Sea.
Suppose the sea were close at hand:
the council wouldn’t need to ship
in lorryloads of Southport sand.
We’d picnic on Mount Pleasant, stare
across to Wolverhampton’s cliffs,
take pictures of the lighthouse there.
The old folk here would tell damp tales
of wind and tide, not pits and fire,
of storms and lifeboats, wrecks and whales.
And youngsters would be leaving town,
unable to afford the homes
with seaside views along the prom.
My daughter’s digging quite a hole
in Bilston’s temporary beach.
A few feet more, she might hit coal.
The River Man
down every natural
waterway in England.
Like a trainspotter,
he has a map
and highlighters to track
his progress. In his wake
the rivers turn pink.
Now, when he thinks
of England, he tastes
Round Dudley years ago, the countryside
was dark, a ravaged wasteland where no plant
would grow, no bird would sing, where light had died:
a black country – a smouldering dragonhaunt.
It was old tales of gold, black gold, they say,
that brought the dragon from her cavern deep
to land on Castle Hill that fateful day
and wrap her scaly tail around the keep.
She laid her eggs in pyre-like nests that burned
throughout the night and sent thick palls of smoke
across the land. A hundred years she turned
those eggs before the baby firedrakes woke.
She’s gone now with her brood, the light’s come back
and few remember why the land turned black.
Ros Woolner lives in Wolverhampton and is a member of several local writing groups. Her poems have appeared in The Cannon’s Mouth and Under the Radar and in a number of anthologies, including The Poetry of the Black Country (published by Offa’s Press).
Her pamphlet Sack of Night is forthcoming from Offa’s Press, summer 2018.
Banner image: Nicholas Gemini