Poetry: 'Dust!' A poem about Black Lung Disease with lung picture

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons
Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Coal Worker's Pneumoconiosis (Black Lung Disease)

Coal Worker's Pneumoconiosis (CWP) is also known as Anthracosis, or Black Lung Disease. It is an affliction generally caused by inhalation of small amounts of coal dust over many years working within the coal industry. The disease is much less prevelant these days due to improvements in equipment and working conditions.

The main symptoms are a shortness of breath caused by deposits of coal dust in the lungs. This in turn often leads to heart failure and emphysema. Retired coal workers are far better respected now than in earlier times, and many now qualify for good pensions, although this is probably small recompense for those afflicted with Black Lung Disease, which is often long-term and incurable.

Dust! (Black Lung Disease)

Breath In, Breathe deep
Day turns into night
And night into day
Underground

Cough, cough
The air is like treacle
So thick with coal dust
Coal is related to diamonds
So they say
So they say

Perhaps we are filling
Our chests with treasure
Like Long John Silver
But Blind Pugh was not
The only man
With a black spot

Our lungs are silted up
Like a river on go-slow
Oxygen seeps in tiny increments
Through our air-ways
While we gasp and flounder
Like beached fish

Black lung disease they call it
We get a pension now
If you shone a torch
Into our lungs
Do you think they would glisten
Like black diamonds?



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Comments 33 comments

G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Not such good news here...am glad for the improvements but alas still bad for one...I am so sorry about this...well done poem my dear...G-Ma :o) Hugs & Peace


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi G-Ma

Sorry if it's a bit too sombre. I know a few people with lung ailments caused through work (asbestosis and emphysema) and when I saw the suggested title 'Dust' it was the first thing that leapt to mind. I also have family up in the pit villages in the North of England, and I've seen some of the mines close at hand. I can't begin to imagine the conditions the early miners worked in.


BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

Mines are dangerous places, my late father worked in a mine in the Forest of Dean many years ago and got seriously injured when a cable pulling a loaded coal truck snapped and the flying end caught him. Not a place for the feint hearted and the people who work or worked in that environment, especially when some of the risks were less well understood, deserve support.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Hello Amanda! I appreciate your work. You are, as always, very original and profound. Thanks.


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 7 years ago from New York

Great work Amanda. If this is for a cause, you have my full support. I liked that coal and diamond thing. Thx


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Brian,

Coal mines are apparently a lot more pleasant to work in these days, but they used to be very scary places. I'm sorry to hear about your father's accident. The men that worked those coal-faces in years gone by, were indeed, unsung heroes.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Thank you for your kind comments Storytellersrus. As always, it's good to see you here.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Anjali,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. No, it's not specifically for a cause, more something that I've often thought about, and was stirred to write by Lita Sorensen's suggestion of'Dust' as a title in her poetry challenge.

Having said that, there are many people struggling with breathing difficulties caused by coal-mining , quarrying, and working with asbestos, and many of them do not get the compensation and support that they deserve. It's always good to raise awareness about these people.


ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

Poems can be used to record life, to maintain records of what it was like at any given time in history. This has an advantage over the clinical compilations of facts and statistics found in most history texts. Emotion can be expressed through poetry much more readily. You've done a very nice job with this.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Thanks CWB. I like the free form of poetry. Sentiments can be expressed randomly, without the necessity of wrapping them up in neat sentences and paragraphs. It's like a kind of shorthand.


Leta S 7 years ago

Hi, Amanda--This is the strongest image in the poem, I feel:  While we gasp and flounder /Like beached fish.  And also, just the juxtaposition of coal dust and glistening diamonds.

This feels something like a song--another thing I was thinking is that it is reminiscent of the poetry when mines were going strong.

I'd like to hear more about the coal mining villages in Northern England.  It would be interesting to me, since I am American and that isn't something you hear about much  A hub with photos, etc., would be cool.

Thank you!!!!


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Lita,

A hub about the mines might be an interesting thing to do. I'd not thought about writing about the coal mines before, being a Southerner myself, but it's not a bad plan. Thanks for the suggestion!


Writer Rider 7 years ago

Very nice. You English have a way with words.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Writer Rider,

It's a strange thing, but the voices and accents somehow often come through in the writing, and even I've noticed that some of us English writers such as myself and Paraglider, CJ Stone, London Girl, Bard of Ely and Misty Horizon all have a different 'voice' than many of the other writers here on Hubpages. It would be interesting to make a study of it to find out what the differences are.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

I must amend that last comment, as I should have said British writers, rather than English!


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

My grandfather was a miner and had this. It was such a hard life.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

I'm sorry to hear that RGraf. I know that miners with this condition now get pensions, but it's little enough compensation for such a cruel disease.


ajcor profile image

ajcor 7 years ago from NSW. Australia

Brilliant Amanda especially "If you shone a torch Into our lungs Do you think they would glisten Like black diamonds?"

great clarity and imagery - cheers


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Ajcor

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I've known a couple of elderly people who have had occupational lung disease. One had asbestosis which was really nasty,and eventually killed him. The other is still around, but has emphysema and some days it's hard to even watch him struggle with his breathing. Thank goodness working conditions are so much better these days.


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

Amanda- To be honest I thought first it was about those smoking then I realized that it was about Coal workers plight. Nice hub to bring awareness and good job on all these poems. Thumbs up.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi CW

I suspect that smokers have black, tarry lungs after years of exposure to nicotine, but that's a personal choice, so I guess I have a little less sympathy for them than I do for the miners!

The poetry challenge has been fun, but I think I'm running out of inspiration. Perhaps poetry is not my thing after all!


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

You do write great poems and inspire so many of us to write poems too. Pleeeeeeaaaaaaaasssssseeee don't give up and treat us to more of your poems :-)


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Well never say never, but meantime, how about some more of yours?


MellasViews profile image

MellasViews 7 years ago from Earth

I thought it was going to be about smoking at first too. I was like uh-oh, shes gunna point out my mud lungs... but alas.. it had nothing to do with it.... I never even knew about this... insightful; and what a heartfelt poem Amanda.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Mellas

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Black Lung Disease is pretty nasty, and the coal deposits never clear. I don't think many people have heard of it, but at least now, these guys do get a pension.


Juliet Christie profile image

Juliet Christie 7 years ago from Sandy Bay Jamaica

Great poem but so sad the price these men pay for the comfort of so many.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Juliet. As you say, the few suffer for the benefit of the many. Fortunately working practices are much more health and safety concious these days, but we still have a legacy of older miners who have to live with this terrible condition.


biggins profile image

biggins 6 years ago from the living room

It makes me happy to be a smoker and not a coal miner. Your poem is incredible. I really like you stuff.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi biggins, thank you for the compliments. You're right that smoking is not as bad as working unprotected down a coal mine, but I do hope you get round to quitting at some point as it's not all good news for smokers either. (Sorry to nag, but I've seen what smoking can do at first hand!)


sumbul 6 years ago

your picture +poem was fabilous


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi Sumbul, thanks for stopping by and commenting on my poem.


Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

Ask_DJ_Lyons 5 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

The poem is very soulful and deep! Thank you!


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi DJ Lyons, this poem is one of my favourites of all that I've written, despite the sad subject matter. I've known two, lovely people who died of asbestosis which is quite similar to CWP. It just seems so tragic that the thing that gives you your living might eventually kill you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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