Poem of the North

Fifty years of the Northern Poetry Library

From Canto 5

The overburden

He came from the north carrying an axe with a hunger
that had bit through forests of oak and Scots pine, until
there was nothing left but scrub and stone, a straggle
of blackthorn, the low yellow creep of gorse.
He came to dig through layers of time with bare hands,
sand and lime, rip at the seams of the earth with his teeth,
made the mud bleed a brackish rust, foraged in the gullet
for red rocks to feed the fury of the furnace, clocked in

clocked out, returned soot-sodden to his black house, to
Mary, waiting, with hot butteries, strong milky tea and

eleven tiny gnashing mouths.

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