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Posts Tagged ‘history’

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Our Geography (1)

Our geography is mellow and tear-washed,
meandering and mud-stained.
It dreams through mist and slanting rains,
bites its lip and grasps the rooted valley sides.
It sends out messengers and bards
on posts and cries their hovered song.
It wears its history against a fickle, fast future;
views as unbecoming the speed of our own descent.
Though welcomes us back always
to its folded silences.

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ALL THAT GLORY

All that glory, bred from blood and rot.
Ground bones to feed the noble good.
The Myrddin in us turns away.
Our Taliesin mocks the solicitous bards.
The histories of truth shall never be written.
The honest shall be driven mad
And disappear, unknown, unnamed,
Fuel for the mysteries of the deeps within.
This is the fabled cloth that suffocates us,
Memories rich, embroidered, gold-threaded,
Dreaming of heroes and just cause.

There was one who refused to give reasons,
And won by losing everything.
Who refused to be wise, refused to be violent
Who turned the wheel of matter
To become the spiral of eternity.
A simple seed buried and buried again.
Though cut each time it arises, given names and deeds,
Smothered again, tutored and redacted.

The first, the oldest gods, were not heroes.
They were farmers and dreamers, dexterous handed.
They were mothers and weavers, nursemaids, cooks.
Manawydan, king of Britain, best of cobblers.
He knew the loud ones take the power, write the stories.
He knew the land would grow empty, as always,
Drained by strife and pride, good and bad all cut down.
He kept his eye on the corners of things, on the smallest,
On the fine tendrils of futures, on the goodness
Of quiet satisfactions. There is no precedence
As we drift towards the doors of death.
Only goodness or bitterness will remain.
And the smallest of things, the smallest that sustain the rest,
Will do what they must, unwatched, unnamed, unknown
Woven through ephemeral eternities,
The inevitable victory of the insignificant.

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AIRSTRIKE

i am man become tree become sky.
travelling north, grey bridges
vaulting green deep scars,
stitches across the stern uplands of heaven.
roaring waters rush thin and white night and day,
they pay no mind to their lifelong fall.

this winter comes thick and fast
with clear days and deep frost.
i sleep always now upon a bed of stars
dreaming of blank-eyed heroes
mouthing stumbled anthems.

our only hope for glory-
to pretend we have more than this.
though the gardens become wild and ragged,
our minds untended, left to doggedly roam
moss-covered, grass-cloaked ruins,
the words left us, handed down,
untranslateable sorrow.

for this do we make our art:
for the fluorescent eggs of time
hatching diaphanous things
in hopes of worthy, unreasonably beneficent gods,
who have already fed and will not slay us so quickly
but watch, drunken-eyed, indulgent.

histories scab over, but so itch we must scratch
and things will never heal as we would wish.
a bitter cold between dawn.
valley ghosts, the sweep of headlights
heading to cities.
one by one, things shall awake from sleep.

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YSTRAD FFLUR (Variations)

1
Flower valley, quietness complete.
To count the short years of the living,
To count the longer years of the dead.
2
Stones warmed by long late summer sun,
Dew still wet past midday, tears for the lost,
Prayers for them.
3
One arch, one door opening onto blue sky.
A strong door it must be
To have lasted the closing
of so many centuries.
4
Billowed on Deheubarth
Dreamed green weight.
An illuminated landscape
A foliate scroll, inhabited-
The whispers of history.
5
One stone archway,
aisles dew carpeted,
nave ribbed in cloud.
The constant choir is this little stream,
and sheep distant on grazed hills.
One yew of many remains
where the poet robin nests.
Pine and dark beech the only roofs now,
the wheeling kite the only call to vespers.
6
A vessel worn smooth with prayer heals yet and shall forever,
Blessed by its past and the dreaming dead.
A valley wide with flowers, a road ended in tranquillity.
7
Flower valley.
Nothing but peace.
Emptied of longing.
Rested under heaven.

—-

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Ystrad Fflur ( pronounced ust rad fleer) is the Welsh name of Strata Florida Abbey in Mid Wales, north-east of Tregaron. It means ‘valley plain of the river Fflur’, but in Latin has become ‘Flower Valley’. Little remains here except an archway and foundations, but the site and location are memorable in their tranquillity and history. Strata Florida held the official records of the Welsh Kingdoms and actd as the religious heart of the country. A well-known poet Dafydd ap Gwilym (14th century) is said to be buried under the yew in the churchyard. Deheubarth was the name of the Kingdom here. The Nanteos Cup, believed by some to be a contender for the true Holy Grail, was kept at Strata Florida before the dissolution of the monasteries. It was famed for its miraculous healing powers. We visited on a misty, sunny day in late summer. It has a similar atmosphere and sanctified silence to Iona in Scotland, the same intangible presence of history and vigilance.

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CONFLICT (The Old Fight)

The green grasses heaped and peaceful,
as they always are,
Steeped and shaped by nibbling sheep,
bowing, pausing, moving on
Like writers, like painters, considering the sound,
Chewing over the bitter and the sweet,
The limp sorrow, the tight-wound grief,
The bound and binding pain not forgot:
Not forgot though buried deep in heaps across the hills.

The buzzard cries and red kite wheels for the recklessness of princes.
Ancient trees so uprooted, excised, their long shadows lost
And peasant weeds happy for short moments in sunlight once more,
Before the whining scythe of war steals life and land
That cannot ever be owned.

This sorry foreign tongue wanders uncertain paths
Around lost sound and buried names.
Those gone before now hood their eyes to listen by the warm hearth of God.
I await, as always, their sure narration, its flow and lilt as if my own:
A habit of work and weather, of sewing in twilight,
In beer that eases ache of long labour
And puts by for a while the winds of winter
And the haunt-eyed want that loiters,
Hanging its dark shade by every byre and door.

I know where I myself would be
To soothe and polish the grain-edged slate of sorrow.
Down with the world’s roar at Pwll Bo,
Its throat of rock slaked and scoured.
I would be rain-cooled, too, in the smoke cloud of Cwm Dwfnant,
Forever under the big hills staring bare into God’s blank blue face.

I would crouch, nostrils spiced with fern and fir
And the damp drip from the birch, itself turning silver and gold
From each and every early frost.
Below where the hidden boys are ever hunting their courage,
Learning to kill for bitter whim of distant government,
Watched by raven eye and silent nested hare.

All beaten down, we have flocked to the cities to be sold for pennies.
Huddled there believing safety is numbers from the wilds and curves of the world.
All winnings, though, are desolate or requisitioned,
Elbowed out, of course, by the mighty.
Rephrased, remapped, remade,
The hills are worn down by the measuring,
(Though they clutch still their gold, their own cheese and milk,
Their own paths downward to certain golden summer
Where the hounds, red-eared, hunt the dreams of heroes.)

Crouched like God’s old hound, the church of Llangammarch,
Perched on its very own hill, push-toed between streams,
A confluence of dark and light, washed in gravels, the quick dippers and lowing cattle.
There above the porch, cut deep in fragmented stone is carved
The old fight between the four corners of the world and the spiral twist of eternity.

And we look on, tangled in, amazed,
Forever wanting what is neither this nor that.
But listen:
There is no more to fight for
Where we have found our home,
Where we breathe in and out all weathers,
The hills of rolling meaning
And the churchtops of exaltation,
Asleep in sunlit valleys,
Companions with the living and the dead,
A ripened mulch,
A song worth singing.

Forgive the reposting, for some reason some of the like and share buttons did not show on the original post, and I don’t believe it reached many people. I hope this one works….

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The green grasses heaped and peaceful, as they always are,
Steeped and shaped by nibbling sheep, bowing, pausing, moving on
Like writers, like painters, considering the sound,
Chewing over the bitter and the sweet,
The limp sorrow, the tight-wound grief,
The bound and binding pain not forgot:
Not forgot though buried deep in heaps across the hills.

The buzzard cries and red kite wheels for the recklessness of princes.
Ancient trees so uprooted, excised, their long shadows lost
And peasant weeds happy for short moments in sunlight once more,
Before the whining scythe of war steals life and land that cannot ever be owned.

This sorry foreign tongue wanders uncertain paths
Around lost sound and buried names.
Those gone before now hood their eyes to listen by the warm hearth of God.
I await, as always, their sure narration, its flow and lilt as if my own:
A habit of work and weather, of sewing in twilight,
In beer that eases ache of long labour
And puts by for a while the winds of winter
And the haunt-eyed want that loiters,
Hanging its dark shade by every byre and door.

I know where I myself would be
To soothe and polish the grain-edged slate of sorrow.
Down with the world’s roar at Pwll Bo, its throat of rock slaked and scoured.
I would be rain-cooled, too, in the smoke cloud of Cwm Dwfnant,
Forever under the big hills staring bare into God’s blank blue face.
I would crouch, nostrils spiced with fern and fir
And the damp drip from the birch, itself turning silver and gold
From each and every early frost.
Below where the hidden boys are ever hunting their courage,
Learning to kill for bitter whim of distant government,
Watched by raven eye and silent nested hare.

All beaten down, we have flocked to the cities to be sold for pennies.
Huddled there believing safety is numbers from the wilds and curves of the world.
All winnings, though, are desolate or requisitioned, elbowed out, of course, by the mighty.
Rephrased, remapped, remade, the hills are worn down by the measuring,
(Though they clutch still their gold, their own cheese and milk,
Their own paths downward to certain golden summer
Where the hounds, red-eared, hunt the dreams of heroes.)

Crouched like God’s old hound, the church of Llangammarch,
Perched on its very own hill, push-toed between streams,
A confluence of dark and light, washed in gravels, the quick dippers and lowing cattle.
There above the porch, cut deep in fragmented stone is carved
The old fight between the four corners of the world and the spiral twist of eternity.
And we look on, tangled in, amazed, forever wanting what is neither this nor that.
But listen. There is no more to fight for where we have found our home,
Where we breathe in and out all weathers, the hills of rolling meaning
And the churchtops of exaltation, asleep in sunlit valleys,
Companions with the living and the dead, a ripened mulch, a song worth singing.

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The image is from an old early medieval carving now above the doorway of the church in Llangammarch Wells

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SCRY

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1
Small things
From deep pools
We rise.
Vaporous things lifting,
Turning,
Weightless drifting.
A lick and dissolve,
Ice smoke, sighing, aimless
Rise, spin, twist and dissolve,
A white fade lift,
A tongue, forgetful, vague.
Without a mirror, you see,
We scatter.

2
The falling down of words
Like honey bees or like rain.
They shall patter and gather together.
They shall wash away all dust of death.
They shall be as mirrors
And as suns.

3
Johannes, named from a river
Forever flowing east,
Named from the delta of Aphrodite
And the Aegyptians,
Of perfect memory and skill mathematic.
A subtle blade, enough to wriggle between worlds,
Searching the point between brightness and darkness.

4
All the cities are dying.
Accursed, they spread limp
And rot from centre outwards.
We have purchased all, yet still hunger, empty.

5
The view mists, fogs over.
A spray of rain and rose petal.
Summon the spirits again, Edward.
Summon again the blast of visions.
I have learned the language of angels
And now they pester me
As flies in summer meadows.
The kings and queens of England
Process in elegant spite, shifty-eyed,
Blaming cousins and the fickleness of peasants.

6
Around the garden walls,
Drab sparrows squabbling,
Happy as morning.
In the hills again,
Lost in mists,
Tight-lipped hunters.

7
Those accustomed to gaze and gaze
Letting in the world unmasked, unaltered,
Though they disappear, remain behind each edge
Every line of silver,
Seared into time’s retina.
Like Padmasambhava’s cave,
Taking up his body’s shape,
A perfect void forever sitting,
Open mind, open heart, unclassified,
Uncategorised, a species beyond light,
A ripple cascading throne,
A point through stillness, through reflection,
Through mirrored glare.
The eyes that look back
At all eyes,
Time collapsed to a breath,
Space folded
To a golden nest,
A beer relished at evening.

8
The sacred,
Always a little smutty,
To these men of science.
A vermilion stone smeared with faith.

9
So slight is the edge that shines,
The mirror’s reflectant skin.
So small a thing to throw back vision,
To show what is and is not there.
Such a line between, ( if line there is),
Seen and unseen.
So fragile a mechanism
To construct comprehension.
We settle to a silver lie,
Satisfied with thin smiles.

10
The eyes may tear something new from light.
New stranger seeds, planted in sight,
Doubts of how deep and shallow
All this reflected life might be.
God buried deep in the liver of a fool.
The Devil buried deeper in his reason.
Rise and fall, a history of empires
In this one small breath.
The same elements congeal
In madmen and in stars.
Somewhere a sun shall rise
And we shall be young
And beautiful again.

11
They push through our bitter fictions,
A stain within vast humid dream.
Spirit filled are the worlds elsewhere
Engraving slowly, they take form line by line.
Removed are the curls of nascence
A ticking clock, a creak, a shadow.

12
It is not malevolent to desire survival,
To thrust through to bigger life.
We are pushed and torn apart
As natural as morning, an evolution of sorts.
Best not, then, weigh nor judge,
(All, after all, the mockery of self
And self-existence).
A fly lands and takes off,
A pest, a nuisance, slow in slow air,
But what if, what if.

13
Our prevalence, our striding
Incessant self-portraiture:
A mistake, a neurosis, surely.
A better view must prevail,
A breaking through of stronger stories,
Radiant gods with heads of eagles,
Sky gods with lightning hair.
Beyond a mirror’s glass
That thin veil allowing silvered vision,
Presumes a surface woven illusion.
So many haunted eyes,

14
The utter strangeness of it.
A timed lapse, a void, a flicker.
Dark matter, the deep fog,
A sunless pressure, trenched, ocean deep.
Black smokers blistering more strange life.
We become utterly replaced again.

15
A charming magus chants destruction
And parturition in one caught breath.
The wonder is we do not see
How small and fast, how struggled and unfree,
How lost and how imprecise,
How glorious and how wrong.

16
The wise remain silent,
Watching skies unutterably changed.
I cannot say with whose voice for sure,
Or whence or from when.
A slight recorder.
A wave front.
A gravity well.
A spinning top
Each second more slowly.
The grate of opening
And closing doors.

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