A poet’s brow, noble nose,
voice so much bigger than him.
He knew where to drink all day,
chain-smoked Woodbines.

In a tiny bar in Crwbin
where drab-clothed men drank
around scrubbed-wood tables,
he sang an old Welsh ballad,
then challenged a young Irishman
who’d claimed the better voice;
not to sing but to fight.
They had to be dragged apart.

He would grasp barbed wire in bare fists,
pull hard for tension, leaving his energy
in the singing, spiralled strands.
He’d wield a chain saw with one hand
Woodbine smouldering at his lips,
the noisy machine smoking before him –
branches fell around; he never perspired.

He worked in the lamp room of the village mine
charging batteries, maintaining heavy Davy lamps.
He would guard the door whilst the manager
shagged secretaries on the table, the floor.

Australians came to shear their flock of sheep,
shepherd was his role on the farm,
strong-backed journeymen roaming Wales.
Used to thousands, in Maes Mawr it was
eighteen; they wouldn’t come today.

Each evening he took two half-filled churns
to the great,  grey concrete cube by the road
to be collected by the milk lorry.
He was always there but was never
Maes Mawr; not like Mam-gu.

© Anthony Fisher March 2002

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