Dhrupad 22 (empty)

DHRUPAD 22 (empty)


emptied the skies,

unwoven by soaring diving swallows suddenly not there

suddenly silent as the still silvered edged trees,

dusted time-dusted, picked out in the

more slanted light suddenly now.

The clouds pouring in now pouring in the winds.

Still warm the sun still warm

though the nights grow cool now.

The days are set,

the days are settled,

they nestle down on quietened fields

in the quiet ripening

fields where the slow pheasants pause

and pick and move on.

There will be the

wheeling words of red kites soon and buzzards soon

their own spells their own

summoning autumn songs

high in the blue and dazzling dazzling heights of

tumbled skies

and the grain nodding heavy

and the hazels winking

and the ash

trees longing to let go,

to let go.


Golden edged

Summer river

Rocks cooling their toes.

Golden river

Summer gnats

All diminuendo

Cooling their old bones

Grey worn rocks in summer heat

Squatting in midstream

Soft summer rivers

Water folding up sunlight

Shoals of darting fish

High summer

We see them gather

To cool their feet:

These venerable rocks

Dreaming in the slow waters

Time flows silent

By the river side



These words have gathered themselves together

Like swallows in a cooling sky.

Dark news from the cities

Where fools hold sway.

The stone at Llanlleonfel hardly speaks,

Stuttered in silence, its lines unread.

The stone of Llanynis taken to safety,

A kind replica gathers moss in an empty field.

The stones of Llanddewi Cwm, the woven stones,

Broken and holy, no one sees any more.

Words there are dying, eagle cries scratched and fading.

The stones of Gelynos subside into their own graves,

Locked in roots, bound by promises, muttering names.

The stone at Llanwrtyd, the old view subverted,

The road to world’s roof pitted, empty.

Is it still there in the darkness?

A mystery looking out, an old palm resting in an old lap,

As if after despair.

The stones of Llanafanfawr, huddled safe from storm,

Root words that mean their opposites, that savour contradiction.

The stone of Llangamarch, bestowing its blessing on jackdaws,

By the river’s edge in the water’s roar.

A storm of awen stripping away discourse.

A scroll rolled and unrolled a galaxy away.

The stone of Cilmeri, where hope died,

Where hope is offered flowers continually fading.

A place to lose heads, to find a well of eventual peace.

All these stones cold, hard, mute.

They can not tell of our futures here,

Though they remember the past,

And that, they all know, is the same thing.

The stone of Llanlleonfel is an Early Dark Age memorial to two fallen Welsh warriors inside the small church at Lllanlleonfel. The script is hardly readable now, the exploits forgotten.

The stone at Llanynis is a deftly carved pillar cross, removed to a local museum, but replaced with a fair reproduction, leaning isolated in a cleared graveyard.

The stones of Llanddewi Cwm, are no longer in situ. They consisted of deeply carved interlace patterns, once part of a free-standing cross stone.

Gelynos is an early Non-Comformist chapel site on a hillside road. Its walls long gone, its gravestones tipped and sinking into the earth.

Llanwrtyd stone is a memorial stone with abstracted Celtic-style head, lost within the depths of an old church nave.

The stones of Llanafanfawr are enigmatic geometrical carvings now placed into the porch wall.

The Llangamarch carving is above the church porch. It has a representation of a figure holding a spiral below a sun wheel cross.

The stone at Cilmeri was placed last century in memory of the death of the last great Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, ambushed and slain here.

All these stones are in, or look over, the Irfon Valley in mid-Wales, where I live. The title ‘Lamination’, which is name given to the weathering deterioration of these old carvings, is also a play on ‘lamentation’, particularly the Biblical Lamentations of Jeremiah, so popular in the Reformation for its relentless descriptions of ungodliness and destruction of nations.


Cuckoo sings to cuckoo.

The morning is a still lake

Reflecting silver light.

I give the mountain my breath.

The mountain gives me back silence.

We rest motionless.

The river has a poet’s mouth,

Meandering and easy,

Called by sunlit and dangerous horizons.

Rain dissolves the view

Sitting still

Surrounded with birdsong

Resting in silence

We become the view.

Who holds this bowl?

Y Llyn (The Lake)


Here is my entry to the Llanwrtyd Eisteddfod this year. Entries were in Welsh and English, as usual from all over Wales. The first place (as proper), went to an experienced Welsh-language poet. I was lucky enough to come second.
There are about a couple of months to think through the subject that is chosen each year, which allows enough time to allow ideas to collect and flow. It is not the way I work very often, but usually the first few trials turn out to be the ones I submit. Two poems that survived the process are here below.

Y LLYN (rivers stand still)

It is a palimpsest of all silences
where rivers stand still a while to watch the sky.
A rainbow lake, a grey lake, weathered with the dust of things.
A song in chains, a perfect replica of night.

If you wake here before dawn
(woken by a dream or by a drift of light),
you will see all the valley drowned in mist.
The hilltops, all islands, in a lake of white dew.
Then there is almost nothing as silent as this –
the slow change as breath of light rises
and things of day stir to wake.

All the poets are commingled here
as glimmering fishes, dancing together, dancing apart.
Their mouths silently working, feeding on rhyme and reason.
They hunt the fire within the lake
so they may become someone else.
(Taliesin nods, smiles and winks).

There is not a breath across its surface,
not a moment it does not reflect upon.
In its black belly walk memories and bones of things:
Bones of snow, bones of ice, bones of sheep,
Knuckle-bones of disappointment, sinews of remorse.
This poets’ house contrived of wind and water,
held so still in the patient hands of old valleys,
(for loss is loss and never to be forgotten).

A plaid of wind ripples the lake surface –
as if it were about to say something.


Y LLYN (johnny tomorrow)

Johnny Tomorrow, always returning to the lake that drowned his childhood.
Cool eyes gaze skywards measuring the rain, and the sedges rattling
like the last breath of one happy to be leaving, dust-filled
and with too much darkness to carry on living much beyond the grey lake morning.
He has marked the spot where his ash shall settle,
committed to memory the cloud patterns and the play of ripples along the shore.

How long has Fannog farmhouse been beneath the steel cold waters?
How long its walls become wet caves for tiny fishes?
All the past has dimmed now in fluid liquid distance,
all the present rocking ungainly on doubtful waves.
Only the future is certain: that these clouds shall build and build then pass.
And there shall be a sweet warm breeze of blackberries
from the stretched and torn blue sky high above Dinas
and skylarks, skylarks, skylarks, visible and invisible
(like angels singing the praises of the Almighty).

Johnny Tomorrow, measuring days, rearranging the sorrows of the past.
Beneath each clear reflected memory there is a deeper current, more felt than seen.
As if he knows he should once have offered the best cheeses, the best bread,
the best grain, again and again, until the waters slipped silky aside
and he would be given the joy he patiently awaited, the beauty he dreamed.
For a time, for a time, a sort of perfection, a mirror clear of ripples.
Until the undoing, when all the bright things, all the brightnesses,
walk away without a word, without a look backwards, and all the dreams
silently walking into the slow blue waters as if nothing had been there,
a slow diminishing of rippled surfaces until a perfect sky, a perfect hill,
closes the door on anything other than here and now.

Johnny Tomorrow, waiting for the triple sacrifice, willing to let go
of yesterday, of today, of tomorrow – all those cold chains released,
offered up and sinking into the deep dark waters,
become sediment, settled, longing to be forgotten.
Now, now free, he, too, sinks.
He floats, he rises, knowing not which is sky, which is water,
which is tree, which the root of his tongue’s exultant shout.

Walking into sunrise with no shadow, all music merged into one breath,
bright-browed and open, he whispers: ‘Upon a lake, that is not a lake,
there rests a boat, that is not a boat’.
And the lake, at least, understands.
The doors swing wide and just like this, like this,
he enters the lake’s eye, the depths of an older tale.
It will be a bright tomorrow over the green hills.
A gentle rain rustling across the water, and mayflies dancing.

A Dance Upon Y Garn


The bones of the hills

The bones of rivers

The bones of the mist

The bones of meaning.

How shall we talk to the bones

Of things, the sweet marrow?

That great grey slope,

A rising falling sine wave,

A rumbling note bending horizons.

Converse with it dressed thus in cloud

And become a stranger removed from illusion.

Untied, drifting, anchored only to words

And a dance that is so so slow, it brings worlds to their end

And changes them that new languages are needed

To begin to know it, to begin to know it.

Prophecy in the Morning


Tra mor, tra Brython,

Haf ny byd hinon;

Bythawt breu breyryon

Ae deubyd o gwanfret,

Vch o vor, vch o vynyd,

Vch o vor, ynyal ebryn,

Coet, maes, tyno a bryn.

Small gods consume lesser gods

To become great gods.

Simple ideas coalesce

To plot the downfall of worlds.

Ye prophetic poets who starve in corners.

Ye warrior kings who walk on mothers’ sons.

Ye ocean depths. Ye wild autumn skies.

Ye ultimate icy silences. Ye forests singing.

Words that lack mouths fall impotent.

Memories that lack accuracy

Become stories for the bored and enervated.

Today, like every day,

Is the last day of this bright world.

Today, like every day,

Will become ashes glowing in the cooling evening.

What will you do to sustain?

What will you do to glorify?

What will you do, O foolish ones,

To mimic eternity, and fail?

I am Taliesin and I am bitter dust.

Bright browed and grown from circumstance.

A seed swallowed by a great mother, hatched and thrown adrift.

If my words bite hard, they are to waken you.

Your footsteps are poison

Wherever you tread.

How shall reparation be made?

Pop arawt heb erglywaw – nebawt

O vynawe pop mehyn.

Yt vi brithret a lliaws – gyniret

A gofut amwehyn:

Dialeu trwy hoyw gredeu bresswyl.

The words in Welsh are from The Prophecies of Taliesin:

At the beginning:

As long as there is sea, as long as there are Britons,

There will be no fine weather in the summer;

Feeble will be the lords who come to them

Through deceiving the weak.

An attack from the sea, an attack from the mountain,

An attack from the sea, the uninhabited region in tumult,

The wood, the field, the hollow and the hill.

and at the end:

Every supplication going completely unheeded

By the lord of every place.

There shall be turmoil and tumult in the host,

And spreading tribulation:

Acts of vengeance mixed with constancy of fair promises.

Prophecies accumulate their own veracity.

They become the origin and end point of themselves.

Boulders thrown into a stream,

Turbulence upstream and down.

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