Bings, or slagheaps, used to dot Scotland’s Central Belt. Who would have thought they could be the stuff of poetry? But here Stanley Roger Green and George Macbeth prove that they are. (From A Book of Scottish Verse, edited by Maurice Lindsay, Robert Hale, 2001.)

                      THE OLD BING

A century ago deep dripping galleries were gutted

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To build this monument above the wooded carse;

Now the bing is overwhelmed by dog-rose and bramble,

Veins of wild strawberry throb under bracken.

~

In winter keen hill winds and valley rains

Strip it bear revealing a gaunt memorial;

Stark in its grandeur the bing rears from the carse

Like the tumulus of a long-dead jarl or thane.

~

At its base a slow river ambles reflecting tall

Hills and still herons heraldic in twilight;

Not even the sighs of evening winds can recall

The anguished grunts of those nameless toilers,

~

Who hacked a sparse living from grudging seams,

Cursed at roof-falls, mourned lost comrades,

Indifferent as moles to the cenotaph above them

Each day darkly rising, shouldering the sun.

                           SHOTTS

Grown-over slag heaps rise like burial mounds

For giant moles: the outworks of a siege

Where coal that ruled their lives fell back and failed.

~

Subsidence, unturned wheels. Fresh conifers

In tiny forests mark the perished seams

And ragwort flares above blown galleries.

~

Where shafts go down, there must lie bones of men

And dregs of anthracite, once linked by work

As at the brink of something, luck or change.

~

I see my father, measuring his hat

Against my little skull, day after day

Go down those shafts and frame a better future.

~

I was born here. Now, after sixty years,

I come back weaker to the place of launching

And drive through dirty streets, tears in my eyes.