Buried Treasure (1983, revised 2014)

Industry left these hands again, circumstance marooned me here
to endure workhouse stain
accused of idleness.

In damp cellar I worked a loom,
bailing water three times a day,
candles to enlighten gloom
learn from books at my side.

Tiny window for light and air.
Water dropped from eaves.
No drain but my window there.
I did as I was due.

My creed as skilled fancy-weaver
“Give me not poverty, lest I steal.”
Now I bring up blood like fever
do penance in a workhouse.

Too many times the Ship of Linen
has left me like Crusoe castaway
to return God knows how or when.
I thought it I was my  sin.

Workhouse always reproves.
I lose my dignity ;
strip, search, old clothes
in fire, locking of the door.

Barnsleys Improvement Commission promises paved streets, clean water, drainage and sewerage system,
the rich do what they will.

When I get out it’s mine.
Some dying have the gall
To speak of  buried treasure,

Of gold beyond this wall

Barnsley General Hospital was built on the site of the Union Workhouse

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