Celebrating the workers – haibun for dVerse

When Thatcher broke the mining union, she broke my town. Changes that would have happened gradually happened overnight. Family firms went bust, big chain stores moved in. A community was shattered.

As a child, I was dimly aware that everything came from the pit. Like all jobs that deal with fundamental elements, mining is tough, and dangerous. You have to be able to trust the men around you when you are below ground. Above ground, miners clubbed together to provide welfare for themselves, but also resources for the community – sporting facilities (football, cricket), education (my mum worked for the Workers’ Education Association), entertainment, music…the list goes on.

For me, even now, the sound of a brass band is the sound of the Gala – a celebration of local mining communities. Miners marched behind their colliery band, under intricately embroidered, heavy banners. There was competition and community in those marches. I still feel a tingle when I hear a brass band – it’s blue collar art, an act of rebellion against a system that wanted the workers to be workers and nothing more.

green shoots climb skyward
flowers open in sunlight
fed by the dark earth

It’s Labor Day in the USA, and Frank wants us to celebrate labour, in the broadest sense. A haibun for dVerse.

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11 thoughts on “Celebrating the workers – haibun for dVerse

  1. i admire the community that comes together and put their resources to good use. I appreciate the personal reflection of your town and impact of that in the mining community.

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  2. The shattering of a community and the reflection upon it years past. There’s a lovely melancholy here. I remember my husband’s grandmother telling me how she would hear the coal miner’s walking to or from the mines in Scranton, PA.

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  3. Your poem resonates with me, reminds me of HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY. Fossil fuel workers, especially miners, are a dying breed; just as no one rarely works at one job their whole life, and gets a pension. As a kid, I dreamed of working for the railroad, thinking I’d have security for life; smile.

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  4. New York City under Mayor Bloomburg and Chancellor Klein phased out and closed many of the large comprehensive High Schools throughout the city. Columbus High school, where I worked for eight years, was one of them. Those closures and phase-outs killed our school communities. I relate to what you’ve witnessed here, and can only imagine how much worse it was when an entire town or region suffers from such a death.

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  5. I remember the Thatcher years and the waves of sadness and discontent. I also remember the solidarity, even from people who had never seen a pit, let alone worked in one. When I was a teenager, I had no time for brass bands, but now I understand their brassy rebellion. I love the link between the ‘flowers’ of brass instruments and your beautiful haiku, Sarah!

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  6. Thanks for sharing this story, Sarah. This sentence is epic: “I still feel a tingle when I hear a brass band – it’s blue collar art, an act of rebellion against a system that wanted the workers to be workers and nothing more.”

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