horse-and-cart

My grandfather began working in a coalmine
Near Auchinleck In Scotland.
Most men did.
He was 15 years old when he began.

He would lead the ponies from the mine
Carting wagons of coal.
It was back-breaking work.
Relentless.

He was know as the crabbiest man in Auchinleck.
I don’t recall him being like this.
He was very fond of me.
All I can remember is his smile and his stories.

I would sit by his seat
And listen to his stories.
I would also sit by him
When he was splitting wood into small sticks.

Despite his hard work
He would regularly walk greyhounds for a friend.
He would also walk through the forest,
Admiring the wildlife.

He had a large aviary
Where he kept a selection of birds.
He would point out certain birds and teach me what breed they were.

My grandfather died when I was 8 years old.
I remember laying in bed on the night of his funeral and calling for my Mum.
I asked her if my grandfather was coming back.
She gently said, “No.”

I couldn’t comprehend it.
I had never dealt with death before.
How could my grandfather be here
Then not?

By 1979, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.
She closed most of the mines in Ayrshire.
The community is now derelict.
Run by heroin.

There goes my dream
Of taking my children
To see where I was raised
In more innocent times.

My grandfather would be turning in his grave.