The Hierarchy of Substances
by Catherine Edmunds
Four barefoot kids walk down the road, sticks in their hands. They pause at the entrance to the mighty Elsecar Main Colliery, years before its 1983 closure; the early morning sun almost shines, despite the rain and leaden skies.
Tonight, the fire crackles. Outside, the trees strain against the night. The hierarchy of substances has been abolished, that’s what I tell my visitors. The whole world can be plasticized and we are become ‘plastiglomerate’. What’s that? they say, briefly interested. A new Anthropocene stone formed of melted plastic, debris and organic matter. We’re sinking beneath the rubble.
The boys are writing an essay: ‘How we lived then’. I tell them I’m not sure why we could never grow lupins. The boys roll their eyes. They’re not interested in lupins or sunflowers, only coal-grimy tragedies.
I love the fells, the falling dark; I love it when the pub is calling and nothing can get between you and that first pint, glorious and full of hope.
I’m bone tired now. Galaxy flowers hold entire universes on their petals, and agate crystals can look like tiny landscapes. The boys don’t want to hear this. When the winding gear fails, how long does it take to hit the ground? That’s what they want to know.
I shake my head, take out my aids, watch them mouthing murmurs of too soft words. I stop and walk backwards for a while. Four of us. Barefoot. Sticks in our hands.