DAY EIGHTY-FIVE – Alan Buckley


Be a Miner. Because Britain Will Always Need Coal
(National Coal Board advertisement, 1970s)

Nineteen eighty-four, eighty-five.
They knew austerity long before
we did. An uncivil war.
They had to dig deep to survive.
Their fears have been proved right:
Close the pit and you might
as well put a sign at the school that says
But it was all such a long time ago.
Orgreave isn’t Hillsborough, or so
it’s claimed. Let sleeping
slag heaps lie. Let the grass grow.
Let puzzled children ask the meaning
of the word colliery.

Two hundred then. Now just three:
Thoresby, Hatfield, Kellingley.
And soon there’ll be none.
Thatcher called them the enemy within:
now, their last battalion
surrenders its arms. Let wheels spin,
and cable loop around its drum;
bring them to the surface, blinking
at the unforgiving light.
Chain the gates behind them,
watch them walk away from history,
into a country others voted for.
Maggie has her final victory,
and no one needs to dig deep any more.


A Single Red Rose

They’ve announced a new world heritage site.
A railway bridge? Och, don’t talk shite.
It’s the Edinburgh South constituency;
home to Labour’s last Scottish MP.



Alan Buckley is currently working with another writer on a live literature show exploring gender and the body. He works in Oxford as a psychotherapist, and as a writer-in-residence for the charity First Story.


One thought on “DAY EIGHTY-FIVE – Alan Buckley

  1. Sadly, Thoresby closed last month. I watched the documentary ‘Still the Enemy Within’ – this poem distills everything contained in its two-hour running time with a ferocious clarity.


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