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Posts Tagged ‘Llanwrtyd Eisteddfod 2019’

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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.

“Gorwydd”

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.

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