Hugglescote Baptist Graveyard

Will Hatchett

This countryside says sorry for itself
Its terraces, aligned from pub to pub
Its mountains, untidy mounds of slag

The pit heads and the winding gear are gone
Leaving, merely, an ambiguous urban fringe
Lead grey, on a midlands afternoon

My ancestors walked along these plain streets
Drank in these pubs; they wore their Sunday best
Succumbed to typhoid, coalfield maladies

The Baptist church was their Jerusalem
They hoped for a life beyond the mundane
Lived and died, unremarked by history

Newton Burgoland is where we pull in
At a coaching inn - a fire, warm food
Lads in blue shell-suits slouch at the bar

They eye, suspiciously, our city clothes
The strangers – like plough boys in an old print
“'What are you doing here?” says the barmaid

I am from here; this is where I am from
My great great grandfather's memorial
Is a slate slab in Hugglescote graveyard

A hundred years ago, I would have been
An insider, patching up boots and shoes
Joking with the barmaid – one of them

Tall grey stones slanted by a winter sun
“I won't let go,” I say, lifting you up
You slip from my fingers, and drop back