This fine poem is by Auckland Coal Action member Nick Pak.

Martha’s Mine

My aunt Martha has lived here twenty
years now. They brought her here with
empty promises; now life goes on bitter
and ugly, a web of shattered dreams and sadness

They’ve never taken away her rubbish –
now twenty years of sludge sit in her
backyard. Not profitable yet, she tells me
as she watches the sludge shipping index to China

It’s time to move on, she says. She
used to have a good home, a sturdy
four bedroom white painted weatherboard place,
’till Papa got too hungry and gobbled it up

She’s on the benefit and her six
kids have never had jobs. The employment
situation here is the pits and her husband
died long ago of respiratory failure

With a glint of hope in her eye she tells
me the kids are headed north, there are
promises of work there, the nation is
creating jobs for hard working Neu Zulunders.

Next year I visit them in Northland. The
birds have stopped singing and the rivers
run with poison. I see them sitting in their rigs
with eyes of shattered dreams and sadness

For a visual artist’s close-up view of coal mining, check out Meliors Simms’ account of her recent visit to Stockton Mine: