A Heritage

By Dannie Abse 1923–2014 Dannie Abse
A heritage of a sort.
A heritage of comradeship and suffocation.

The bawling pit-hooter and the god’s   
explosive foray, vengeance, before retreating   
to his throne of sulphur.

Now this black-robed god of fossils
and funerals,
petrifier of underground forests
and flowers,
emerges with his grim retinue
past a pony’s skeleton, past human skulls,
into his half-propped up, empty, carbon colony.

Above, on the brutalised,
unstitched side of a Welsh mountain,
it has to be someone from somewhere else   
who will sing solo

not of the marasmus of the Valleys,   
the pit-wheels that do not turn,   
the pump-house abandoned;

nor of how, after a half-mile fall   
regiments of miners’ lamps   
no longer, midge-like,
rise and slip and bob.

Only someone uncommitted,   
someone from somewhere else,   
panorama-high on a coal-tip,   
may jubilantly laud
the re-entry of the exiled god   
into his shadowless kingdom.

He, drunk with methane,
raising a man’s femur like a sceptre;
she, his ravished queen,
admiring the blood-stained black roses
that could not thrive on the plains of Enna.

Dannie Abse, “A Heritage” from New and Collected Poems, published by Hutchinson. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited, http://www.randomhouse.co.uk.

Source: Arcadia, One Mile (1998)

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Poet Dannie Abse 1923–2014


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 Dannie  Abse


The title of Dannie Abse’s collected poems, White Coat, Purple Coat (1989), refers to his lifelong professions of physician and poet. Of these careers, Abse has stated, “I like to think I’m a poet and Medicine my serious hobby.”

Considered one of the most important Welsh writers of the past century, Abse was born in Cardiff, Wales, to non-Welsh-speaking parents, but lived mostly in London. His poetry collections include . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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