Rusty… blunt… spade

By Keiron

What I’ve tried to say is , no matter how useless you are think you are , or have always been told, lke a rusty blunt spade, you will always have a purpose in life. Even if it’s not what it is designed or made for. I watched ‘The long and the short and the small’ by Wills Hall, a World War II film. Soldiers always rewrote hymns to suit their situation because everyone knew the tune. Also, I tried to add that in that period, people always stayed in their own villages, towns unless they were running away, because of desperate circumstances. So for example, if a worker killed the mill owner himself then he fled to say, Merthyr Tydfil centre of the Welsh steel industry, just by adding a Welsh accent. Mills to foundries , I think was common for unskilled labour. The question I would love to answer is, do people in general write with a character or accent in mind, is it a common thing? Even if it’s a poem? 

Rusty.. Blunt .. Spade .. 

'There's trouble at mill '
They said. 
'Mill owner's dead, got a nasty cut, to the 'ed!' 
The sight of the incision caused such derision. 
'It appended so quickly, we couldn't come to his aid.' 
Lifelessly, next to his body lay a blood-soaked rusty, blunt spade. 
'Why did it 'appen?' 
'Why! Because he told us, we wouldn't get paid!"
'You'll never amount to owt,' said Dai. 
The foundry owner was a bit of a moaner.
I liked the bloke, but that comment was a spit in the eye. 
I wouldn't wish him any harm,
Like him to die painlessly in his bed. 
After all, he keeps me in beer and bread. 
In 1914, I downed tools to fight the Hun,
In a war that nobody won . 
A smell of mustard fills the air, 
Most of us from the gutter, but they don't care. 
( Sang ) sing up lads! 
"We plough the fields and splatter, 
The mortar on the land." 
I can see them now , the organisers of such a bountiful feast. 
With their teak, copper-handled campaign furniture. 
Miles away from the action. 
Action, that speaks a thousand words , none of them heard. 

I still see them , Owen, Jonny, Smithy, Jonesy and the rest. 
None of them twenty at best. 
They used to be soldiers , now eternal farmers, replenishing the field 
For the harvest, they yield. 
Day after day, night after night, 
Hour after hour. 
Bombarded from both sides, left to right. 

I tried to be strong for the ones I left behind, 
But that night, something inside me died. 
I opened my eyes to a bright white light, so blinding 
I thought I was dead. 
A pounding, pounding deep inside my head.
I tried to wiggle my toes then I realised . They had taken my legs . 
'What kind of life is left for me, 
Pensioned off at twenty three?' 
I closed my eyes and erratically, started to laugh. 
Madness had entered my blood stream. 
Shouting out loud  
Never, never, never, never again 
Am I not going to get paid . 
Because I own a rusty, blunt spade.


Refuge from the Ravens is supported by the Heritage Fund. In 1798, Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge sparked a literary revolution — poems in everyday language, telling of people on the margins of society. 200 years later, homelessness and social inequality are still with us and even on the rise. This project invited people with lived experience of homelessness and other vulnerable people to meet Wordsworth across time, replying in poetry, art and song in a Lyrical Ballads for the 21st Century.