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Pit Ponies of Glendasan

 

Hitched to an eight-hour shift

in britchens, hames and traces,

they follow the miners’ carbide lights,

 

halt under hoppers, turn

on a thruppence and lean into their collars

to pull the five-wagon train.

 

Low-set cobs from the Curragh,

a piebald and two greys, their hooves

fall heavy as hammers on granite.

 

They haul lengths of larch for pit props,

pneumatic drills, boxes of gelignite,

and, from time to time, deliver

 

injured men back to daylight.

The miners pat their necks in passing

and feed them windfall apples –

 

comrades in toil and first to stall,

legs locked at a sudden rumbling, a change

in the air or the rush of running water.

 

 

© Jane Clarke

Picture 10023563, engraving in The Graphic, 1871, image copyright Mary Evans / Illustrated London News

 

 

Jane Clarke grew up on a farm in Co. Roscommon and now lives in Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow. Her second collection, When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe Books, 2019), was longlisted for the 2020 Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize and was shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award 2020 and the Farmgate Café National Poetry Award 2020. Her first collection, The River (Bloodaxe Books, 2015), was shortlisted for the 2016 Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize and in that year she also won the Hennessy Literary Award for Emerging Poetry and the inaugural Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year Award. Her illustrated chapbook, All the Way Home (Smith Doorstop, 2019), responds to the Auerbach family archive of First World War letters and photographs represented by the Mary Evans Picture Library, London.