R.N. Allan

What great snout of ice
Once nosed through this gorge
I cannot imagine, but it left
Sabrina narrow-waisted for men
To span after their fashion.

Abraham Darby’s three hundred
And eighty tons of lacy iron
Make an elegant clasp now, but
The names of Coalbrookdale,
Coalport and Bedlam Furnaces
Still catch the throat with
Acrid smoke and the valley’s
A museum of sad defiant mills,
Like old men among the trees.

At Blists Hill they’re breathing
Life into substantial ghosts.
A monster possesses a brick shed
And raises and lowers a mine
Cage with an easy snort. A
Beam engine is stalled like a
Monumental bull and mysterious,
Circumjacent leviathans with
Grinning chevroned teeth await
Resurrection. In refurnished
Workshops, aging white-smocked
Craftsmen operate heavy tools
With remembered movements
Like actors in an old movie and
A toll house and cottage are
Anaesthetised under household
Wares that croon nostalgia.

It is as if life might escape
From its moments unless material,
And these are its presents,
Casting dense shades of mines and
Mills, of child-men and women
In this seamy, overgrown valley,
Redeemed with the remorselessness
Of creation by its cleansing trees
And flowers, its airy iron bridge.