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Posts Tagged ‘mortality’

RISING, RETURNING

Rising through mist and rust and gold.

The rain coming and going and the oaks holding on.

History repeating itself, as it always does,

And the eternal poets weeping and laughing

In their sunlit words.

We shall reach home soon, as we always do,

Until the very last time when time shall slow and stop,

And the oaks, only, will be holding on then

In rust and gold and sunlit drifts.

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TY CANOL WOOD

It is a narrow house, the wood that is made for eternity.

A smoke of dream shivering upwards into air.

The roots of it smoulder below, flame-leaves lick.

It is a narrow house we are born into.

So much that cannot be reached, cannot be known.

The paths wander between moss boulders and broken bedrock,

clothed in thick green life.

Constrained by thin earth, yet they all do seem to dance,

and at night, some say, they walk

and the rock creaks open,

light spilling from golden halls,

and that unnerving perfect music, too.

A narrow road and a narrow house we have set ourselves,

But that is not the world’s way.

She dances and throws it all away in broad gesture,

Sings at the central hearth, though no-one listens much,

and knows that song is food for every soul.

Feels the billowing thunder head, this haze of gnats,

the invisible silver threads beneath,

and the chains of finest gold,

and the footprints of old gods between the stars,

that is birdsong here

in Ty Canol Wood.

This ancient small woodland in Pembrokeshire is named from the nearby house, Ty Canol, ( the central, middle, house). It has links to Otherworld inhabitants, and has a definitely magical atmosphere. Here I am contrasting the open, generous quality of the natural world with the restricted experience of mortality and human perception. The coffin is sometimes traditionally referred to as a narrow house and the tomb to a house of earth.

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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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AN ARTIST DIES

There will be one this morning

who walks out on the hill untroubled

by the mist and the rain.

Watching with a new eye the bright lichen

on the slick rock, the bobbing wagtail

by the water’s edge.

.

Who will wonder only a little

At the acheless knees, the easy breath,

as he climbs the high ridge out of the oaks.

.

Who will never forget the beauty, nor the love,

but who is still drawn on by a certain brightness,

Like something long forgotten now returning.

.

There is a distant sea of weeping and emptiness,

A yearning somewhere far off beyond the day’s glint,

somewhere where everything is still the same,

though somehow veiled and trammelled.

.

And he shall walk among his sheep

without them lifting their heads, even.

And his dogs will wag their tails,

then look around bemused;

and the cat will stare and stare,

blinking once so very, very slowly.

.

And what was unfinished there

in the studio,

now seems utterly complete,

even so.

Good enough to leave untouched,

good enough to say what needs to be said.

The careful line, the hint of colours:

there is no end to this work.

A brand new sketchbook,

open and white,

is waiting.

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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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1

YOU WILL STOP

Green veins

Of sunlight

Take you to

The silent abiding light.

Within the within

Where voices

Are breezes

And waves, and

Scratched starlight

Arcs.

The smoke

Tells you

Who you are,

And from whence

And from where.

2

THE MESSENGER

What did it whisper?

That you were never going to live forever.

That this breath now,

Is your only road, in and out

Of this world.

That fears are seeds of infinite patience

And will push through the neatest pavements.

That time is all you have,

And you have no more time.

That we do not begin, nor end,

At our skin.

That all barriers and boundaries

are children’s games, lines of chalk.

That when you take,

You take from yourself.

That when you talk,

Silence would often have more honesty.

That you stand upon

A web of silence.

That you come and go

Like a breeze between dawn and evening.

That your footprints wash away

And the stars shine brightly.

3

SAPPHIRE SKIES

We contemplate more sapphire skies,

Breathe in and watch for pain.

Whether we will last or not

Is not the question

We should be asking.

4

UNSTITCHED

These most sapphire skies

shall see us stitch by stitch

become unstitched

and standing naked,

wondering how it was,

and why, becoming

took so strange

a gentle slope.

Tides and waves,

a change in the weather,

a blackbird’s rain song.

How could we have forgotten

so easily?

All is absorbed

becoming benign,

a honey sustenance

for new sunlight.

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A LULLABY AGAINST FEARS

Do you not see the doors swinging open, swinging shut?

With each breath in and out, the breeze of their coming and going.

.

Cold is the mountain and the white snow will wake you, will wake you.

There is only a moment to know more,

Only a moment to remember and forget.

Until we know what it is to dream it,

We shall never waken.

.

We thought we had removed from ourselves

The scent of death that followed us down

Through all the long centuries.

.

We thought the posy of politeness had done more

Than mask the fear.

As always, it is the smallest of things

Breaks open the delusion

Of genteel comfort.

.

Every room, every landscape, every moment,

Has a door that, should we walk through,

Would take us into other places, never to return.

They swing to and fro with our in and out of breath.

.

A door of leaves, a door of grasses,

A door of breezes, a door of riverbanks,

A door of whispers, a door of praise,

A door of sorrow, a door of breath.

These doors coming and going

Between the world you know

And the worlds you do not yet know.

How many have changed you beyond recognition,

Forgetting the song you were singing

To get lost in a tune unfamiliar,

That better becomes you?

So many doors, remembering and forgetting.

A door of small things, a slight imperceptible door,

And you have gone to be elsewhere,

In sunlight unsullied, in radiance of starlight.

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LEAVING LLANGAMMARCH

Who would choose to leave this Llangammarch

Wrapped in birdsong on a warm and sunny morning?

Who would lift their eyes from the glistening waters

Draped with alder shade and grasses?

Throughout the houses it has now the soft hush of loss.

The hollowness of a hollowed name, a rehearsal of memories.

Llangammarch threaded between wood and waters;

An easy confluence neat folded against the green grey heights

of Epynt and its sighing skies, its distances tasting of blue.

Except those who tend the dead ( the small things singing), no one lives on Epynt now.

It is a roofless, empty house, shadowless, and singing winds.

Perhaps it is there our departed go, congregating to watch the unfolding world,

At ease and in peace, soothed by a longer perspective on sorrow and joy.

Who would leave Llangammarch, warm and dreaming?

Those with dreams urgent and golden;

Following the light upstream,

the open skies, the warm winds,

the curlew berating heaven.

A floating world, a breath away.

One breath away.

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This life now gone:
A storm of rainbows,
A bowl of fragrance,
An utter song of views.

How to hold the fullness of it?
How to honour the living of it?
How to conceive the lap and swell
Of that one full ocean of sensation?

One eternal unfolding memory,
A tumble of heartbeats.
These every jewelled moments
Are seeds flung back into universal soil.

Never lost, always cherished,
A fuel for dear futures.
They are collected: each breath, each moment.
Valued, priceless passion,
Tears in the bright eye of being,
Tears in the flow of all beings.

Mother, mother, a soft delight,
All burdens borne away,
All pains a cauldron,
A chrysalis swirled
Awaiting new dream
On a new day.

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ARTEFACT

We come and go one by one,
or in twos and threes,
waking, sleeping from dream to dream,
handfuls of dust cast heavenwards, taking shape,
then falling back to settled earth. Bubbles, thoughts, whispers.

Birdsong in a pearl-still dawn.
All day in this small green field,
in its tangled bare hedges,
in its edge of trees,
in its deep grasses, the birds
flit and feed, pause and fly off.
All day the sunlight picks out the distant slopes,
the forests, the valleys.
And they, too, come and go with mists
and clouds
and drifts of rain.

For months now I have been working the canvases,
(for people do so like a view to hold on to,
one so dear to them, one they do not have,
a way through the mute walls,
to remember an opening out, a beyond,
a distant something).
Against its nature to drip, against its habit to mix and merge,
against my own fingers’ wish to sweep and gesture.
A discipline,
the tying down of an illusion,
confection for tongue and eye.
A sweet minded moment, an ache of forgetting.
The life of itself, a liquid thing,
to be constrained so, to process
as a stately, well-dressed thing.
Not just a swirled, delightful, mute moment.
A meaning. A purpose identified. The monitoring of the familiar.
As if. As if.

As if there were a story.
As if there were a careful, structured tale.
A small beginning, a once, a long-ago.
Through wild, thorned paths and fog and frost
to a final end so careful balanced.
A just so.
An as it is.

Something to leave behind.
Something to say.
More than a rise and fall.
More than a raven’s cry across the valley.
More than a blackbird in the cool dawn air.
More than a drift of mist above a hidden river.
More than a rise of trout as the gnats dance on light.

The fire is lit
and it must be fed ’til nightfall.
Then, untended, it will die down,
become silent.

That smooth black,
silk-dark soot:
a hand-print,
a fingerprint on a cave wall:
we are here,
dreaming.
And we found a way through.

—-

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