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Gathered In

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Gathered In

There in its branches
All the dead are gathered.
And there they sing,
Bright as ivy berries
Whilst angels, like winter wasps,
Sip grateful and murmur
a psalm of houses.
There is this, and nothing but this:
A gathered slow change
From one, shared endlessly with the other,
Wrapped and stretched,
Wriggled and feathered.
A rope of souls arcing
The deep between lonely stars.
And the slow pools,
And the fast river of seconds
Washed away-
Breathed in, breathed out,
And in the silences between:
The wind in the dry leaves
And the creak of limbs
Tangled from rusted iron rails,
And shattered blooms of stone
And words in an old tongue:
Here lies, in memory of, the memory,
The memory itself.
One that was, gone now beyond crumbled edges,
Melted skin, up to the snowline,
Down to the river pastures.
Gone to the hairy down-soft snakes of ivy;
The hard, blood-thin flakes of yew;
The bitter tang of elder, caught right there
At the back of the throat;
The delightful bruised scent of ground-ivy
And the small violet day.

The Elenydd

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Sunlight and whispers,
Bright rolling silence.
There is no confusion here:
All things fall fearless
Against the movement
And the stillness
Of hours and their dust.

Footsteps all forgotten
(Puddle, pool, stream, river)
Nothing but the distance of the past
And the distance of the future
(And the skylark remembering both).

The diagonal slide of sun and moon and stars,
Tides of light and shade,
The constant abrasion of the wind.

It hardly breathes, so still it is
In its rising and falling distances.
The silent rolling hills of heaven.

These uplands spread out
Like God’s own hands
On the first Sunday,
Sun-warmed skin stretched pale
Over rippled knuckles,
Bone resting quiet,
Muscle and tendon singing.

Sky-touched, the first moments,
Cloud thoughts, the pale waving grasses,
This click of warming rock.

—-
The Elenydd is the old name for the central uplands of Mid Wales, known as the Cambrian Mountains. The southern border is effectively the Irfon Valley, where I live, though in actual fact the valley is bordered on its other edge by the Mynnedd Epynt, a very similar landscape.
The Elenydd is a very ancient mountain range worn down to a high bog and grassland plateau cut deeply by streams and rivers

Time Slides

Time slides as the seasons slide,
One into the other.
As the sun slides and the moon slides.
Time slides as the days slide,
Toppling over and over,
Rolling as the sun rolls, as the stars roll.

Garn Goch is covered in cloud again.
A slow drift, wordless love.
Seeds of rivers, seeds of seas,
Collecting on the stiff sedge
That lodges between the tumbled rock.

All slides on,
A smooth falling dance
Through winter, through spring,
Through summer.
A green slide and a grey slide,
Sun and rain.

A slow smoke rises, offered.
River mist: opaque as snow, radiant.
And the calligraphy of oaks.

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MARI LWYD 4

This dream we cling to
As if it were the only dream.
This wind, these hills,
This heart so tattered,
So threadbare.
Scoured even,
Stretched thin,
Worn down.
A whisper in the rain.
A word forming in the pines.
Winter shows the bones
Of what is, of what
Will remain,
Of what the old songs sung.
This has been your life
Down to this frozen moment,
This darkening path,
Distant laughter,
Sparks spinning
From the bobbing torches.
Shall we go on?

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MARI LWYD 3

We follow sightless bones
Through the narrow door into a New Year
Because white bones and sightless eyes
Are the only things ever to pass through
From now to the future.
The wise will wander aimlessly,
Lost, discussing the dark paths, the short cuts,
The less muddy way.
We will stumble drunk and aimless
And find the warm door
And ask the right question
And fall to sleep
As the voices laugh
And roar
And the light
Slowly rises and fades.

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MARI LWYD 2

Sparks spin into night.
Through darkness a white ghost moves.
We follow, laughing.

Landscape remains.
Mind stays the same.
It is only the light
That changes,
Only thoughts
That come and go.
The music of it all
Remains,
Though the notes
Are constantly rearranged.

This dream so real
We fear there is no other.

We follow the grey empty void
For which we have made sparkling eyes
And a name and a thunderous roar;
And filled it with questions and answers,
Sustaining itself in darkness,
Intruding into our hearth.
Skull empty judge,
Bent bone and curved empty,
A void of time.

Lacerating tattered hearts
The wind that scars the hills
And incrementally erodes
Once warm moments
Wearing down words to screams,
Wisdom to leaden clubs.

A white sky.
Snow cold are the hills.
The rain freezes.
Beauty is not for you to survive,
But to savour
And then to long for forever.

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A sequence of connected works, or variations, to do with Time, New Year, tradition and mysteries. The Mari Lwyd, (‘Grey Mare’) is a horse’s skull decorated and carried on a long pole that goes round houses on New Year’s Eve exchanging banter for food and drink. It seems like a really ancient tradition and has the edgy, initiatory, feel of the oldest of memories.

Part One

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MARI LWYD

A fluid darkness, a slow river wind.
Wild torches taste change, sparks tumbling into tomorrow.
We follow laughing, the Mari Lwyd with the wild futures
As all before have done this New Year’s Eve in the old valleys
Lost in the darkness, these hills watching, loomed.

Following the Grey Mare who tests the wit and want,
And begs for food and the oblivious warmth of drink,
To remember and forget the fading paths, the slender chance,
The fatal message.

A laconic nightmare stirred up for a vigilance and a testing,
Slick and breathed upon with frost death, breath white sheet cloud,
An ectoplasmic emission, the dancing myth of earth,
A decay and return of Time to its rightful round.

Not a horse of this world, patient in the paddock.
A night horse, all will ride willy-nilly,
And a rough ride or a wild drunk banter.

We ride the words, we ride the stories, into the night.
The torches are well made, but will still gutter and die in dawn’s drizzle.
Mari Lwyd is mute this year – no wit left amongst these sundered tribes,
No one can recite the triads, utter the names of things, the innuendo beneath the sheet.
We rake over ashes, but for want of fuel the fires will die
(And perhaps they should, perhaps they should).

A new fire, the valley snaking north, caught glorious in a winter dawn.
The light slides deep, across pale oaks and forest boughs,
Slides with shifting cloud across the tops, across the fields.
The bones of things dressed in warmth,
But it is only the bones of things that will ever pass
Through and along and between the long nights,
And into the death and birth of years.

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