From the sour breath of quarry towns we came,
to our scars the firelight a mother. In another land
our broken chord stretched far on the moors,
the flint of our tongue, the tinder, the coal,
hung in their black sacks our lungs sang
to the dead dark night of the child, too young
in her grave. We wore the eyes of the damned.
Our biblical chant we took to the wars,
candled the lanterns to hopes of our home,
when Madame in her manor, high summer,
forgot. In our hallway of night, watched lights
in distant houses dream up their happinesses –
all the bells of Notre Dame – and mourned
in our trench, in our filth, in our lice,
for our spouses – their corpses – when our dead
stank the ground. Hometown was lonely that year.
Here, us, we never danced down promenades,
our arms like silver chimes. Our drip was slow
through time, gritted and gnarled, no child
never aspired to living to three. We got a VC.
And still died on the slump of our knees.
And in the candle of our last hour’s sleep, across
the moors and the mines, sit the ghosts
of our shanties long-crippled in time. The moon,
with his holy eye of light, still sits on his swing,
smoking his pipe. Here, at night, tell them we saw
the chasms and grey seascapes of fate, the cracks
in mankind, poverty’s shadows tall on the walls,
our dark graveside flowers all dead on the day
when our bones got up and, slowly, walked away.
Don’t say that our stars are forgotten today.
Don’t say I am nothing at all.
Laura Potts is twenty years old and lives in West Yorkshire. Twice-recipient of the Foyle Young Poets Award, her work has appeared in Agenda, Prole and Poetry Salzburg Review. Having worked at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, Laura was last year listed in The Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She also became one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets and a BBC New Voice for 2017. Laura’s first BBC radio drama aired at Christmas, and she received a commendation from The Poetry Society in 2018.