My job began in my ninth year
When Pop signed me up with the clerk.
Mother said naught, fighting her tears,
As off her boy went to do grown men’s work.
Each day that I spent down in the earth,
Sifting the coal which sliced deep my hands,
Earned a half-dollar. My hard work worth
Just cents for my folks, poor with no lands.
The old Foreman’s anger I soon knew,
In boot marks on my bum he had kicked.
Yet on breaks he would gift me some chew,
Bragging proudly of the men he’d licked.
I shook with joy the few times I could play
With other children. Oh, the useless bliss!
But back in the dark after those Sundays
Memory of fun hurt even more to miss.
And this became my life’s sound routine,
Filling up coal in my cart’s long rungs.
Childhood view could not have foreseen
The slow death which gathered in my lungs.
Rainy spring day I at last collapsed.
Another child doomed to no longer grow
Older to see his life in long lapse.
It was then Mum’s tears could freely flow.