Miners’ Dugouts

(Burra, South Australia)

They say it’s in the way you listen. Walls,
they tell me, hoard up sounds. Today
they’re different — camera shutters and
a condescending voice, “so cool, my dear,
in summer, I imagine”. Lean
and listen for a time. Listen deeply, stand
against the dugout wall, perhaps you’ll hear
the older, far-in things. The hiss of steam
from fountains on the stoves, the slow,
soft shut of oven doors, the evening sounds
of plates on tables, miners singing home,
“Diadem” perhaps, their voices burred
by Camborne Cornish. Nothing there?
Well, try another wall, the one that’s marked
by winter seepage. Try again,
try listening honestly, these seepage stains
conceal unusual sounds. You haven’t heard
diptheric children gasping in the dark?

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