In the coal-dark kitchen of Mamgu’s house
above the fireplace scratched with coal-dust,
brief sunlight reflects in the miner’s lamp.
Every morning Mamgu would polish it
with Brasso and a red cotton cloth.
Her thin hands handled six-thousand washes
and bathtubs, but never touched the lamp.
Those milk-grey eyes looked out and seemed to wait
for the coalman in strict silence,
then drift to the dent in the miner’s lamp.
I imagined the dent was a crater
in the cheese-like moon I could not touch.
Mamgu laughed at my plans to conquer space.
Mamgu talked of grandfather breaking coal.
How he’d rise in the frosted dark of morning
and return to a sun hidden under the sky,
place the lamp on the fireplace
and read the rustling newspaper.
Mamgu said the paper rustling
was like shingle thrown in a rock pool.
When she finished polishing her lamp
she’d light a cigarette, smoke wrapping the room
and smelling of fire.
She’d gaze at the ceiling sticky with nicotine,
throw her stub into the fire
and stroke a black and white photograph
with the tinted faces of sixty-five men,
and one-hundred and forty-four children
she had outlived.
Matt Jones currently lives in Cardiff. A meditation teacher, he is training for ordination with the Triratna Buddhist Order. Matt’s work has featured in Poetry Wales and the Southbank. He enjoys solitary walks in the mountains.