The Boatman

by Barry Vickers

boat

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He coughed long and hard, spat phlegm dark and tarred
The mist, cold and damp, he felt a touch of the cramp
As he fitted the bridle, to a horse he couldn't let idle
He knew his life was short, in the trap progress had brought ...

Unbidden his eyes lifted, t'ward the noise his mind drifted
As a fly boat chugged past, on a journey so fast
In their bright uniform, with a boiler to keep warm
For five days he'd walk the run, but in two they'd be done
Oh yes he'd applied, every company he'd tried
Too old or too sick, if only he were fitter, by God he was bitter

Four years since his wife died, each day he had cried!
The 'monia what took her, rasping coughing what shook her!
Now his daughter's run off in search of some toff
His son's down the pit, the selfish git
He'd have been number one, if he'd not up't and gone
Digging hard with a will, the coal that made him so ill ...

As he set off on his course, with a shout to the horse
With a pain in his chest, he pressed on at his best
The sleet in his face, now slow was the pace
If he fell in the pound, who would hear the sound?
Death a release, no pain ... just peace
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