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The Miner

was here a week, while they were fund-raising in the town.
I tidied up the kitchen cupboard to make space; he put in

a bag of sugar, a jar of raspberry jam and a packet of tea.
He chain-smoked, maybe once or twice stayed and watched

the news with me. He was quiet, reserved, cautiously polite.
Then he moved on somewhere else. After the strike I heard

he'd started driving a van. All that time I knew I owed him,
as everyone did, awkwardly, without knowing how to say it.

What was a yard of shelf, a rent free room? I didn't talk
about Matthew McDonagh, who'd leave Cuilmore and Sligo

each year to work in some nameless South Wales pit,
who, one summer, did not arrive back home, never saw

his little girls again, nor met the new baby, my grandmother;
whose memories of light green hills and cold silver streams

burned and suffocated in a blinding thunderstorm of coal,
who is lost with the thousands on those careful, terrible lists.

Mary Woodward

Poetry Ireland Review

Issue 122

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