They enter dark waters in fire damps,
waiting in the amniotic dusk,
below the surface, while the mouth
breathes fire to the sky.
Softly, they flow downwards,
grow back into the mineral landscape,
tossed back up to the light when
the earth sees fit. Some were found in shards
where the water world dammed
and womb fluid filled the streets.
Maybe they are fish now,
transforming all together
into a great shoal, the older men leading,
the boys drifting, tentative, into
bodily definition, coal, ironstone,
fireclay, ganister, shale and sandstone;
all become them. Separated from life,
in wonders and challenges, they enter again,
transfigured by fire and waves,
and they shall be here in many wonderful shapes,
the grain of wheat, the running hare,
leaping alive at the harvest, or turned back in again.
(Historical note: The Oaks Colliery explosion is the second deadliest coal mine disaster in the United Kingdom after the disaster at Senghenydd Colliery. There were two more explosions on 13 December 1866, which killed 27 rescue workers. The Oaks Colliery, one of the largest coal mines in England, experienced 17 further explosions until it ceased operations in the 1960s.)
Ali Jones is a teacher and mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She has also written for The Guardian.