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Frosterley Marble

Ralph Walton mines at Frosterley six days a week.
The seventh day he rests, which means he travels far
to preach the Word of God to fellow Methodists.
‘God made the world and all that’s in it in six days.’
At work on Monday, Ralph, his brothers and his cousins
prise galena from the earth — their daily bread —
until they come by chance upon a rarity,
a welcome bonus to their earnings from the lead:
a slab of marble. Hacked out, trundled to the surface,
brushed and washed, the piece encases, white on black,
the fossilised remains of creatures of the sea.
Ralph stands and wonders. I am wondering today
at scores of Dibunophylum bipartitum,
the specimens held fast for millions of years
in this now polished artefact at Stanhope,
up the road from where Ralph named their find ‘the cockle post’.
Total abstainer, literate, he knows his Bible.
Why would God have planted cockles underground?
Across his mind there floats the shadow of a doubt,
like darkening clouds on Weardale in the spring
which interrupt the gift of sunshine that he loves
and (barring Sundays on the road) sees little of.