The Afternoon Shift Are Leaving the Port Talbot Steelworks

The Afternoon Shift Are Leaving the Port Talbot Steelworks
The men are leaving the Port Talbot Steelworks
as the day is sharpening its edge on a bright sky.
They stream through the last-ever light in the world,
their tread, heavy and tired, but their heads unbowed
as they set their soft caps at the afternoon. Their
faces are blurred because they are just a little too far
from where the man with the camera stands.
A few steps forward would have sharpened the focus
but it is better be uncertain. They are merely
a group of anonymous men. No one is marked.
It will always be afternoon and a brilliant one
where grubby sleeves are rolled to the elbows
to catch the sun, and where the men walk forward
towards the children, the unborn and the never
to be born. Somewhere, the photographer
has caught the shadow of a shadow.

A copper penny bearing the King's silhouette
is found by a little boy under the kerb where
it rolled after wobbling like an old bicycle
over the stones. A copper penny for every
last thought. Steel reflects the sun all over 
Europe and the Pacific. The machines don't 
stop, night or day, although, one by one, 
the anonymous men are slipping away.
Tracey Herd

from Not in This World (Bloodaxe Books, 2015)

Reproduced with the permission of the publisher.
Tracey Herd

Tracey Herd was born in East Kilbride in 1968 and has lived and worked in Dundee; she is now working as a Royal Literary Fund Lector and participating in their Bridge Project.

 

 

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