Author Topic: Shovelling Coal  (Read 949 times)


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Shovelling Coal
« on: December 08, 2015, 12:41:51 pm »
This poem about being a tandem stoker was read at CTC carols on Sunday.

by ?? (songified by Ted Milner)

There are those who think the tandem is the instrument sublime
For the serious cycle tourist and the man concerned with time.
It has drive and goes much faster as it gobbles up the track,
But it's quite another matter for the guy who sits in back.
Shovelling coal, shovelling coal.

Just think of the advantages with twice the power at hand
And half the wind resistance as it travels o'er the land.
The weight is less than double - this alone gives peace of mind,
But it ain't no bed of roses for the guy who sits behind.
Shovelling coal, shovelling coal.

It's just like a locomotive with the front man engineer.
He sits and shouts his orders to the fireman in the rear.
It's the way to run a railroad, with a bike it's not so sweet,
To the sweating, swearing fellow on the secondary seat.
Shovelling coal, shovelling coal.

The pilots work the throttles while their partners work the flaps.
They are barely more than slaves, a society of saps.
Co-pilots do the labour, they are not supposed to feel.
It's likewise with the suckers above the rearward wheel.
Shovelling coal, shovelling coal.

The man up front is master, it is he who shifts the gears,
He decides when brakes are needed and on top of this he steers.
He can go the wrong direction and wind up in Timbuktu,
But refuses any protest from the guy who's number two.
Shovelling coal, shovelling coal.

The view ahead is blank and to peek would be a sin,
So he can't see where he's going, only places where he's been.
He would love to lean to starboard when to port they make a turn,
But such pleasure is verboten to the crewman in the stern.
Shovelling coal, shovelling coal.

Yet there will be retribution on some future day in hell
When all tandem frames have melted and the tandem leaders yell
In agony they writhe and some mercy they request,
But the backmen just keep doing the thing they've done the best
Shovelling coal, shovelling coal.

No one seems to know who wrote it or when. I found the words here:
An ungovernable laughter, a joyous agitation which makes the summer stretching before you seem like an unrolling canvas on which you might draw those first rude pure strokes that are free. (Capote)