Seven Security Guard Sonnets

Paul Brookes

A Big Pit

A Good Hiding


Long curved drive from main gate like a rich house.

Six Security guards sit in an old

building, play cards, warm up, ogle Penthouse.

Its door reached as slurrytides mudslosh cold


into wellies. Coal packed trucks push their vast

tyres twice your size down roads. Don’t wade wasteland.

Slurrysea cambers causey edge as they pass.

These potholes must sink deeper than England.


Pick your way with care over gantries. One

guard lost his grip, caught hold, saw his bright blue

hard hat tumble thirty feet down and gone

into wet mud, slip under duvet smooth.


Lads say need two-by-four for coal nicking

locals who sell it need a good hiding.





I'm Making New Ghosts


Mrs O’Brien gives us dinner Christmas

Day. Tommys microwave warm's plates. Little

Billy’ll bring t.v. again fort laughs.

And after your snap when your stuffed full,


if you get bored you can always patrol

outside. Don’t forget your Walkie Talkie

for takes a good four hours to trog round all

perimeter. Watch for Mad Monk as he


walks int mud. Seems to float over it cos

you can't see his feet.  That's Monastery

under't slag. Don't tell no one this. Tha loss.

Stop production. Jobs on line. Tha'll be sorry.


All pits have their ghosts. Now the pits are ghosts.

Industrial estates, call centres, future ghosts.





My Pit Ponies


Old George like others given half a chance

knew tha'd two o' thee snap. Bit for them, bit

for thisen. He'd nuzzle inside a man's

donkey jacket. Times on entry to pit


down drift leading others he'd stop swing head

to and fro, wait a moment or two, turn,

gallop up and out pit. Swings chuffing lead.

Take bloody shift to get bastard ont turn


back down. When tha were leading guarantee

some wily bugger'd stand on thee toes and

If got behind 'um, hit you so harshly

tha's winded three days. Got nowt out my hand.


Pullin' tubs were hard, no word of a lie,

week pullin' doubles one up and died.







Fitters Shop



Tang of steel shavings, watery oil, brick

Dust, smear of grease around heavy tungsten,

A dull lathe shutdown, slices motes in slick

Dream of employment, now redundant, then


Awaits auditors' decision, sweat stinks

Through polished wood clamped by rusty vices,

Light slants diamonded windows cracked glint

Made by lobbed desiccated plaster


Chucked by workless youths- graffiti remnants

Of breadwinner workers. Machines muted, still.

Await demolition, no longer meant

to maintain roofs over heads, cash in till.


Tang is a tale told, a smelt memory.

Shops closed, all now cashed, unhealed history.








In smashed glass I see a Ford parked outside

The Working Men’s Club with a painted sign

Over its broken windscreen inscribed

“POLICE DID THIS!”, and watch steady, sure climb


of a bloke with handlebars of his bike

heavy with a full sack of picked coal,

Haul it up the hill to home during Strike.

All kallin in pub on a night was all


Black Maria’s waiting down sidestreets

packed with police without numbers or names

while tv news reverses events and keeps

talking of enemy within to blame.


Now uniformed myself I police remains,

watch old miners walk their dogs through their pain.









Harsh Light


Gentle light should enter these open eyes,

slow. Sat on slagheap blue sky midday see

flit white clouds pass shadows over pit, ply

and flow girded redbrick coal washery


over bright puddles, empty slurry tanks

cross concrete bunkers of unused sand, lime,

gravel. Recall days ago nightshift rank

veins freeze blood heat, ice encrusted hands rimed,


ground concrete hurt all when I fell one snowed

winter day heavy weight hauls postal bag

down, I slip on an iced drift to unload

post bottom of door number eight. I rag,


open sprung letterbox, sharp fringed brush put

letter pull out quick metal lid slams shut.






I.     A Watchclock


Once it took a regular twelve hour shift
walk with a clock. Trained security

guard of N.U.M. ripped floor-tiles, boots lift

dust piled up like unused coal. Find key


to fit the clock to record time account

for your existence, evidence. Other

keys echo their jangle, their fine cut sound

in empty spaces, unlock, uncover


a wasteland of rooms without walls ceilings.

You can see cold October sky abuzz

with stars, coke plant behind its steel fencing

work up a head of grind, glitter and buzz


of lights. Had nowt to do but waste time, kick

up weather worn tiles old floors, slow time tick.







 II. This Village Heart


Look forward to going in, lose fresh air

from coking plant, climb creaking stairs into

security guards' room where asks Mayfair

and unattainable ogled Bill. So


why you back so early? Don’t you get it?

Soon as you get back, sooner I'm out. Dumb

Shit! Takes clock leaves you to room. It's

three o'clock. His tales of old steelwork thrum


in your head.  Industry let him go, too.

Remember this sat supping coffee in

village Activity Zone, wait on new

workless to attend your jobsearch session.


Hear how building you guarded will now be

called heart of village, in recovery.







The Cage Drop


Pit demolition crew joke all will not be there, a memory.

Pit security guard I laugh. Cage drop,

ears pop, stops flash by, reach deepest Barnsley

Bed. Never knew vast gusty dark. Hard top


lamp helps avoid stumble on railway tracks.

This cathedral high roof, crumbly soil, root

rot, pit support steel arches. Drift way back

 dark I stared into now stares back, mute.


Where once much clank, heat, scrape and busy must

there is left the gust and heat slow dust. "Turn

light off." says Deputy. Eyes can't adjust

this absolute dark, cannot see this hand. "Turn


light back on." says Deputy, heaves a small,

latched white wooden door open to storeroom,

discarded tools in stone trough. Pony stall,

where they rested between shifts, feed and groom.


To fresh air, cage rises one last time and date,

to "Land to Let" and Industrial estate.





      I.            Whorled


Winter night before stood sentry on ice

cracked edge of North Gawber pit above grown,

Willow Bank, Whorled Water Millfoil site.

I in the dark contemplate ice in bone.


How Millfoil survives harshest icy blast,

turions, shoots sink to stillness.

Pit on one side, on other Barugh Green's vast

trading estates. From pit site when lights less,


the other: tall concrete and steel units.

From this Victorian pit's living talk:

welding buzz, mine repair shop hammer hit

recall no such noise on the gravel walk


outside, another hour and a half freeze

before twenty minute break warm release.


  II.            Echoing


Inside pray not dodgy biro, note time,

quick slurp flask, before out again to bright

lights harsh flare as I cross over the line.

They switch off once I walk out of their sight.


Do as I'm told. Hear gust shake chains on steel

fuel tanks, whip up thin gravel round huts,

empty and temporary, echo peels

off discarded plastic wraps, a sound puts


me in mind of boat's rigging. Barugh means

hill. But I, down on flood plain look


River Dearne, up to Gawber whose name seems

in Old English, to mean gallows hill. Stir


echoes in its dark drifts, darkness stares back.

Pit closed, became trading estate like Barugh.

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