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TWENTY YEARS ( OF DRUID TRAINING)

1

It was like a rope of light

let down into the chaotic darkness.

Only later would we see

it was a deadly serpent

and the chains of enslavement.

But such is the nature of knowledge

and we shrugged, accepting all costs.

.

Nyt o vam a that

Pan y’m digonat

.

It was not from a mother and a father

That I was made.

.

2

One year we were held in complete silence.

No word spoken

but internal recitation of all the masters’ words.

Becoming each one, and their lilt,

moving into their expressions,

reclothed in passions,

Eyes opening in other worlds.

.

A’m creu a’m creat

O naw rith llafanat;

.

And my creation was created for me

From nine forms of consistency:

.

3

Another year we each were given

one word only, to unwrap.

To follow, to hunt to its uttermost,

to its bright birth,

In a name that has become ours alone.

A map of our journey,

a seal on our circumference.

.

O ffrwyth, o ffrwytheu,

O ffrwyth Duw dechreu;

.

From fruit, from fruits,

From God’s fruit in the beginning;

.

4

Once the words were learned

all the rhythms and the hidden wealth:

We could see how nothing existed

outside of those patterns of plaid.

No move, no colour, no conceit,

nothing that was not drawn

from that well of words.

And so we learnt to see around us,

in every hall, in every byre,

where each would walk

and where in each tale

they would place themselves.

And how with a word

it might be shifted

and how with a gesture

the plot might be moved on.

.

O vriallu a blodeu,

O vlawt gwyd a godeu,

.

From primroses and flowers,

From the blossom of trees and shrubs,

.

5

One year we were given

the gift of madness.

.

Prid o pridet

Pan y’m digonet,

.

From earth, from the sod

Was I made,

.

6

Another year we slept all the long days

and at night gathered around still pools

to learn the dance of stars, and their songs.

Our dreams would be strange then,

and our names, unpronounceable

.

O vlawt danat,

O dwfyr ton nawvet.

.

From nettle blossom

From the ninth wave’s water.

.

7

One year we would speak only lies,

until we knew that truth is itself a lie,

and that the tides beneath us

are drowning darknesses

and screaming passions.

.

A’m swynwys-i Vath

Kyn bum diameth.

.

Math created me

Before I was completed.

.

8

A year as birds

soaring and rising on thermals,

to find the fulcrum of the winds

and to twist the cloud rivers to rope

for sun or rain or storm.

To placate, to restore.

.

A’m swynwys-i Wytyon

Mawrut o brithron.

.

Gwydion fashioned me

Great enchantment wrought by a magic staff;

.

9

A year abiding by trees –

some would not return,

fertilising the world

with their eternal silences.

.

O Eurwys, o Euron,

O Euron, o Vodron;

.

By Eurwys, by Euron,

By Euron, by Modron;

.

10

Another, we hunted and slew all the gods,

taking their women and siring new progeny.

These we fed with our own blood and souls,

so that they would know us when we summoned them.

.

O pymp keluydon

Arthawon eil math –

Pan ymdygyaed.

.

By five enchanters

Of a kind like godparents –

Was I reared.

.

11

One year to placate and cajole poisons.

Those songs were enticing, sweet as death.

.

A’m swynwys-i wledic

Pan vei let loscedic.

.

A ruler fashioned me

When there would have been a burning extent.

.

12

Then we did all return to our own families

To serve one year, unrecognised, in their midst.

For many that was the final chain broken to the past.

Allegiance of blood once sweet, now rancid, old, bitter.

.

A’m swynwys sywyt

Sywydon kyn byt,

.

The wisdom of sages fashioned me

Before the world was made.

.

13

A year of folding secrets into the mundane;

Of speaking to the deep;

Of remaining human.

Learning that love and hate

Are the gravity that keeps us here.

.

Pan vei genhyf-y vot,

Pan vei vach veint byt.

.

When I had being,

When the extent of the world was still small.

.

14

A year polishing swords and mirrors

And placing the singing spells

Of vision and death within them.

.

Hard bard bud angnawt,

Yt uedaf ar wawt

A traetho tauawt.

.

A fair poet, of unusual gifts,

I control in song

That which the tongue utters.

.

15

The genealogies of the lost

And the equations of gods;

Their doorways, their doorkeepers.

The mysteries under the earth

Where the stars wander,

Passionate light on an endless river.

.

Gwaryeis yn llychwr,

Kysceis ym porffor.

.

I played in the light,

I slept wrapped in purple.

.

16

The transmutation of the body into smoke;

To see without eyes;

To move the shining streams.

.

Neu bum yn yscor

Gan Dylan Eil Mor,

.

I was in the citadel

With Dylan Son of the Sea,

.

17

To become free in chains;

To remember the first cauldron

And the journey from there.

Brightness remaining.

To give everything away,

Yet remain undiminished.

.

Yg kylchet ym perued

Rwg deulin teyrned.

.

My bed in the interior

Between the knees of kings.

.

18

To summon guards and guardians;

To curse the dreams of kings;

To know the stars’ positions in daylight;

To travel out on rays of light;

.

Yn deu wayw anchwant:

O Nef pan doethant.

.

My two keen spears:

From Heaven did they come.

.

19

To know one’s manner and time of death;

To move into other forms;

To prophesy and to escape from prophecy.

Transformation at the moment of death;

To remember every name and

The shape and hungers of souls.

.

Yn Annwfyn llifereint

Wrth urwydrin dybydant.

.

In the streams of Annwfn

They come ready for battle.

.

20

To return to simple words,

To return to silence;

To remember and forget,

To move freely without ripples.

Three drops spinning –

Their taste, the honey moment.

To know that all is song.

That all is one song, one river,

And to listen to the winds from the hills there,

From the rapids, from the shallows,

To leap upstream, to float downstream.

To inhabit the world that inhabits the wise.

.

Ef gwrith, ef datwrith,

Ef gwrith ieithoed.

.

He made, he remade,

He made languages.

.

Llachar y enw llawffer,

Much llywei nifer;

.

Radiant his name, strong his hand

Brilliantly did he direct a host;

.

Ysceinynt yn ufel

O dosas yn uchel.

.

They were scattering in sparks

From a drop in the heights.

The Welsh is taken from ‘Cad Godeu’, a long and mysterious poem attributed to Taliesin. It is not meant as a commentary on my verses, nor the other way round. But perhaps they both come from the same place and act as a counterpoint in time and space.

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THE TALIESIN SHADOWS

1

He comes forth by words,

out of darkness and brightness

(we, watching, blinded by both).

.

Out from blood, out from skulls,

out from the groves and the mist.

.

They tumble, birds from nets,

these wild words seeking skies.

.

The scent of oak and moss,

the scent of rust and iron blood.

.

A thousand years,

and still no-one has fathomed its depths.

.

The evening sky swept clear of life and death,

autumn clear with the tooth cold edge to it.

.

He has learnt to weave the shadows.

Mystery is his cloak, a feathered cloak of wings,

wings of words.

.

The meat of the past, the blood and muscle

of all forebears held in rhythm and sound.

.

They have perfected their own shadow,

full of mystery and silent horror.

.

Persistent dreaming encourages a certain familiarity

with dear monsters. “My awen is an ash spear”.

.

We talk to the spirits of the dead,

recounting their stories, reviving their memories,

reincarnating the spirit.

.

I will sing and sing and sing your words.

Your voice feeds my nerves

and I become, first, between, then other, then empty,

and you can walk in.

.

My shadow

becomes your shadow,

your words,

my words.

.

2

I open my mouth.

There is silence.

But now the wind

From the graves

Forms sound, the vowels,

The rivers of sound from the caves of wisdom,

From the mounds of remembrance.

.

I will not sing to the lords, to the rich kings.

I sing to the free, who lack good weather,

Who seek rain in drought, seek sun in storm.

.

The space of song.

They listen and travel through these words

To become closer to the divine.

This is my space. The protective weaving of poets’ words.

Enwrapped, entranced, protected within the poet’s rhythm.

3

Cauldron

This cauldron: iron hard consonants

Wrapped round and shaped by the curve of vowel.

What will it not encompass?

What shall never be encompassed by it?

.

Awen is greater than this cauldron’s expanse,

Awen is deeper than its deep resounding belly.

Powerful is the echo of that fortress of truth,

Yet an echo in the hills of distant thunder is what it is.

The ocean roar of awen in the cursive chambers of shell and bone:

A whisper of voices, millions, there are millions, from the deep before.

.

Deep as this cauldron is, and as ancient as its gigantic creators,

It cannot contain the horizons of Annwfn.

One part is understood and named,

Four-fifths remain eternally hidden.

A clear light blinds by its brightness

And the shadows deepen wherever it shines.

It cannot be named by names, it cannot be sung by songs,

It cannot be understood by philosophy,

It cannot be measured by maps.

Look up, look down, at the revolving stars:

It is there and not there.

Stir the bubbling verses in the honey cauldron:

It is there and not there.

In the breath and in the void

It escapes the understanding as the sun at sunset,

As the cuckoo in winter,

As the wren in the hedgerow.

There and not there,

A diminishing cry

Stirring the mind of poets.

.

He grows from his words – the seeds of sound

On the soil of listening silence.

Embodied, he is mystic light, a tricky one, iron hard steel.

An evolution of the world’s voice found in the dark tombs,

A clothing of golden brocade for liquid tongues.

They whisper in circles in their root-wrapped rooms.

The transcendence of death by the sages, by the brave,

By the wise, by the heroes who pass between, who pass on.

I have placed the words of the past in my body.

Golden, they rise up when my tongue bids it.

The mead flows, we drink and are drunk upon it.

.

The deep speaks, and it stirs the deeper still.

We are echoes and can trawl

The life beneath the single

Small light of the soul.

This voice overtones infrasound.

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GODDESS BOWL

I am the unknowable bliss at the moment of death and birth.

I am the shatterer of stars.

I am intimately enwrapped in every moment.

I am the passion of breath.

I am the fragile vessel of eternal light.

I am the bright moon burning.

I am the smell of molecules and the wetness of love.

I am every skin and every longing.

I am the drip of cave mouth and the yawn of lions.

I am the eternal tree of photons and its infinite song.

Beyond size and judgment, beyond care and carelessness,

Beyond mirrors and windows, every door speaks my name.

Every bowl acknowledges my precedence.

All vowels and consonants praise me.

All silence contemplates my forms.

All seas, all rivers, all days, all nights, all revolving,

All steadfastness, all remembering, all forgetting, all breath,

All consummation, all conceit, all dream, all thought, all name,

All essences, all senses, all waters, all featherlight caresses,

All thunder, all change, all disappearing, all sorrow, all tears,

All reasons, all homecomings, all roads.

Perfect, unsullied, naked, unadorned.

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A FALL OF KINGS

Crow! Crow! I can hear your voice across the valley,

keening and laughing, looking for your shadow

in the sunlight.

The heart may break into pieces

but the head will still go on nattering.

It can never stop, so used

to being fed by roots and wings

from its buried pit, from its damp, deep well.

It summons up and sees what there is and what is not.

.

A dying comet streaks beauty in the slowest of motions,

upright as a ballerina melted by the music –

Posed and poised, palest and vanishing,

though here, still here, in the dawn light.

.

A voice like last night’s river

hidden in the oak valley,

down by the alders

down by the willows

in their midnight silences.

.

A voice like the morning road

across the valley side,

the streams of bright hope

rolling with ridiculous purposes,

speeding on, diminishing, diminishing.

.

Beauty as it dissolves.

As it becomes something else.

Never moving, but dragged

into other orbits.

We move and stay still,

shine and are dissolved

by the shining.

.

This is what the deep head says;

(the streaming golden head, brocaded

and folded with glory, the red-gold hair

in the golden morning).

The heart with rivers,

the heart with sunlight,

the bones that drag themselves together

from the long dream, and come together

in semblances of something already understood.

The faint, faint sighing hiss of erosion.

.

Crow! Crow!

I hear you laughing across the valley.

The wheel never ends of the horizon,

and all its doors firmly shut for now,

so we can listen and laugh and return

to dreaming a world of bright never-ending.

.

She burns still in the sky.

Return, return!

and that she can never do.

Pale and white-skinned and broken-hearted,

burning, slowly revolving all the fragments of grieving.

Time emptying out, filling up, emptying out.

The head and the heart and the white, white bones.

.

A song as we die, Crow!

Just one more glorious lament.

It is what we were born for, what we can bear,

what will break us into four,

so we become our own horizon.

Smudged out by daylight.

Reborn as stars, the stories will say.

.

And you know them all, Crow!

All the songs, all the stories, Crow!

Laughing and singing

and keening and smiling

and calling from heart to heart,

from sun to shade to sun

across the dancing swallow-crowned,

cool-aired morning valley.

Buried in the sky, deep down in the sky,

in the well of sparkling, starry waters.

Everything is nothing,

and that is perfectly

as it should be.

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EXIT STRATEGY

.

Easy to make reckless plans with full bellies,

But many hearts sank in silence amid the wild enthusiasm.

To drag us all into darkness is the destiny of heroic leaders,

And it is they and their names will be ever remembered

By the sleek, sleazy poets collecting their nightly gold.

.

Of course, there were plans and there was strategy.

Of course, it was not immediate – that dissolution

Into the suffocating mists of isolating fear.

The poets’ make clear that there was some fine history there.

But we went into the great design believing we brought light and honour

And hoping quietly for at least a little plunder to justify the slaughter.

.

No one had told us that the air there would be sharper than our steel;

That our proud bellowing voices would be snuffed out

Only by the weight of the unutterable silence of that place.

That the chains that chaffed us, ( the poet’s said), were the very sinews

That held our bones and breath, our only strength, our only continuity.

.

We shall be mocked and sneered at by any who survive,

Even refined orators driven mad by the senselessness and broken screams of it.

These bright heroes dragged dizzy from the conflagration of hearts,

Goodness sold for pennies or twisted into shields to refute incompetence.

Greed disguised as quest. That tomb will not be opened.

No triple spells to cajole the lost towards a familiar banality.

No back to normal as the ghostly voices weigh down the thin air

With starved dreams and the corpses of tomorrow’s children.

Nothing but worms, now, of glory.

A heroic sunset it was, and now the cold darkness is creeping in.

.

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LOST 1

My white winged soul is over the sea,

Low over the silver waters,

Far from sight, for duty

And the hope of peace.

Gone from this world,

Gone from the next,

Spiralling down to earth

To scour the debris of other’s joy.

There is some small joy in loss,

But not this loss.

Settled and content were we,

As rocks on a sun-warmed hillside

( the popping of gorse, the dust of heather,

the impermanent river of skylarks).

Settled and content, rippled in sheltered shade

(the hum of bees, the dance of gnats).

But each change brings irrevocable change.

Worlds end at every whim,

The ruins dreaming in emptied desolation.

Time, a syncopated stutter

To relive or forget in themes.

The moment before death –

An unravelling of strategy and excuses.

Something pure there, something silent,

Something wrapped beneath the pain and sorrow,

Something unutterably sweet, something eternal flickers

Before the moment and the light dies.

Before the terrible glorious cauldron darkness,

The seething dice thrown before dawn

Where we have lost our voices

And must learn to sing again,

Sound by sound.

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PROLOGUE (dark druid arts)

I have sat down and tasted the words of the dead.

What do they taste of, the words of the dead?

They taste of the feathers of owls and the scent of old books.

They taste of domed silent libraries and the flow of a million minds.

They taste of iron and the flower of blood as it fills the mouth.

They taste of mud and rain and scythed grasses.

They taste of the forbidden, of the forgotten,

of the bitter and the everlasting.

They taste of answers and riddles and orifices.

I have sat down and watched them

As the old words make pictures,

As they attempt to communicate their forgotten truths

and the lying stories, and the power of breath and the power of song.

2

Let these sounds revolve slow:

The seed that sucks in water swells

Reaches out to worlds unseen

New airs moving, new sense, new scenes.

Becoming is leaving behind in darkness

That which feeds us still.

Moving out, moving out, peeling the familiar.

These fragments to be held without adjustment,

Without conclusion, as it were,

And if we were not shaping, as it were,

As if we knew somewhere deep already:

The old languages of the blood,

The old languages of potent dreaming.

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RAINBOW WINGS

When the cloud is not down on the hill

there is no magic.

When everything is so clear,

nothing is seen.

The sound of the river,

what voices does it carry?

How can it be unravelled?

I shall tell you a truth

that is mine alone,

a truth of gold and silver

as pure as dream

and as radiantly unscathed.

A truth of rainbow-sheened wings,

roofing a golden palace,

dispersed by a breath,

by a doubt, by a breeze.

The truth no one believes –

that is the way to touch the Real.

The truth that cannot possibly be true,

that is laughed out of every hall,

that truth is the truth that can change the universe.

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ORACULAR MESSAGE

In the woods, in the green wet woods

The dead are waiting with their songs.

.

They have longed for their flesh and they have forgotten.

The rivers are full of their passions.

It is a cold steel desire, a lust like winter.

.

It is gone now, subsided into multiplicity,

The tracks lost, the flash of prey in the bushes,

All become unintelligible like a valley dissolves in driving rain.

.

But the dead are waiting there with their slim fingers

To crack open your sight, to break open your eyes

The release the hawk of your mind, the hungry raven of your heart,

The river of your reason.

.

This is for you, a prophecy for you

Because you have read these lines,

Because of the intersections of the stars,

Because you are nothing but this,

About to be forgotten, about to be lost.

.

The dead are waiting in the woods, singing and dancing,

Forgetting everything.

.

You have dreamed enough.

You have destroyed enough.

.

They slide between species, have no regard for distinctions.

They breathe the matter ejected from shuddering galaxies into the void.

.

These words are not for you

But you must remember them and pass them on.

They are for the last one who leaves.

Who turns to flick the light switch

And with a small smile steps into darkness.

.

Tell them the dead are waiting in the green mossy woods.

Tell them to listen for the sighing song

For the surprise of pine scent drift singing storm winds.

Tell them to remember the small things,

The notions that eat worlds.

Tell them the dead are waiting

To take them home.

.

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CLOTHED

Clothing himself in these common borrowed words,

A certain style, a certain habit, turns it all around.

Anonymous ubiquity becomes an intimate paced voice,

The poet emerges from the rough hedge glowing in the darkening evening.

Everyone has seen the full moon a thousand times,

Yet still now sighs and stands still.

Clothing ourselves in another’s memory

Or dreaming a dream not even ours:

The profoundest philosophy here,

A truth of who we are, think we are,

Where our edges blur and meet,

Where our voices change key and tone,

And slip into accents unfamiliar,

Where we stop being who we think we are,

And for a moment, if only ever for a moment,

We leap from the endless river, glinting and free

Into unfamiliar harvests of air and evening

On the floating view of somewhere we can never stay,

Returning so rapidly to the noisy rush of time and space,

Swept downstream, singing tunes with a cadence now not ours,

Now not solely ours.

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