In the slow revolving
of the mineral heavy Earth,
how long did the great hump of Hill of Beath
take to make coal?
How long did it press down on rotting woods,
squeezing out fossils?
Did the clouds hurtle overhead
while the continents moved miles by inches?
How much moss greens a stone in a hundred years?
For in that blink of God’s grey een,
one lucky human’s long life,
the coal was found and gutted,
a town was thrown up
then its reason for being thrown on a bing.
In that hundred year span I was a child there.
I grew up jealous of the children who wrote
to ‘My Home Town’ in The Dandy
with their Blackpool Tower and Canterbury Cathedral,
their Adam Smith and Carnegie
while my Cowdenbeath had nothing but people
trying to keep their feet as the mining subsided.
No couthy mercat cross or corbie steps,
no getting on the cover of The People’s Friend,
Broad Street and the low High Street
met at angles like a miner’s broken spine.
Now they have a Leisure Pool and a new golf course,
Shoprite and the Store in competition,
pubs, clubs, bookies and bingo
in the satellite dish shanty scheme of things.
It is like a hundred other small towns
in Scotland’s crowded waist
in a hundred thousand years from now
the scientists from Alpha Centauri found
the Cowdenbeath Man.
They dug him out of the coal,
brought him ageless and whole
with a stomach full of fish supper fat,
giro and Labour Party membership intact,
Back to the mother craft.
Blackened but perfectly preserved at thirty seven,
with the liver of a ninety year old.
They learned a lot to take home.
After they had gone,
a dwindling, faint light in the sky,
a snell December wind blew over the grasses and moss
that had heaped upon Cowdenbeath.
It was as if the Great War
or the twenty-six strike
or Scargill or the Poll Tax or the rising tide that drowned us
had never been
on the slow revolving, mineral heavy Earth.