Poetry – Winding Engine, Robinson’s Shaft

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This month Alan Kent remembers the not so distant glory days at South Crofty with his poem Winding Engine, Robinson’s Shaft. 

“ʼEave on your steelies boy! We’m goin’ down t’ ’Ell.”

This must have once been said here,

above the bountiful, tapering shaft

of two hundred fathoms

upon which still rests

this battleship grey of drum and cable

that time, not long gone by,

sent boys into the eerie earth.




The mechanism is simple:

just a huge cotton reel

blindly letting out steel rope into blackness.

Now, it is silent as a spectre

but you still hear the ignition,

the tremble in the walls,

the arched windows shaking,

see the reflections of carbide lamps.




Your stare doesn’t stop. No. Not here.

Interpretation boards tell you how to respond,

but instead, you d’think of breathing, fags, and sweat;

sparkling tin dust in crow’s lines,

the cakey, caged words they spoke.

How many shifts were done here?

How many times did that drum spin?

Where are ʼum all too now?




Inside, all the grease is painted white,

the adjacent rooms filled with film,

reeling in today’s droll visitors.

Unlike other relics of that time,

which are scattered over craggy cliff and wild goon,

this all closed within memory,

There were named boots and hats

still left in the dryer room lockers.




The green button still calls,

still murmurs, winding up and down,

in slow ascension and descent of life.

It is how all winches work:

they are the cores of living,

pard’ners for verse and reverse.

You may never lift again

but still, you are hoist of hope.




If you enjoyed this month’s offering from Dr Alan Kent, you can read more of our Cornish themed poems here.

Dr Alan Kent is a writer, poet, dramatist, teacher and academic. He enjoys writing Cornish and Anglo-Cornish literature.

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