around a coke-fire lit like a rush-torch of the kind you might see on a grey stone wall of any Kings castle in old England, gathered a crowd of calloused and cold knarled hands greedily grabbing the heat from the stoked coals gouged from the eyes of an English mine.
It is the hands that betray the men. Countless men hardened by the sting of many cruel winters; their faces testimony to extreme hardships and desperate lives.
Hands that have swung picks into a terrified stoney soil or whose firm grip lashed the earth with shovels till the splinters of the handles sank their vengeful teeth into flesh, ripping the nails from oblivious fingers. Men who laboured for a miserable wage and whose hands built a new England. Whose shoulders buckled under the load of the hod and whose feet scaled the scaffolding of progress for a future their eyes would not see.
Around the circumference of the coke- fire they gathered like warriors amongst carnage on a battlefield where it was uncertain whose side has won the conflict. Breath from their mouths gushes out like smoke from a dragon slain in slaughter and the fire spits in their faces in defiance.
We do not know what dreams they carried or if their thoughts sought expression in the form of words from a pen stabbed on rough paper. There must have been poets amongst them whose verse lay silent in their hands and never left their hearts.
Yet I see their poetry. It is here in these buildings and industry of England. The flames leap into the frosty night sky heralding a victory cry. These are the men who lived and died as unsung heroes. Let these words be their song.