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NAMES WILL BURST THROUGH

How long will it be before the words form?
And the names, how long til they congregate?
How long until they accumulate weight enough
To press down and hold still and never ever be forgot again?
On lips, on paper, on stone, into the bark of trees.
These names are fragile, finite, unknowable as rivers are.
In their passing we believe we have known them.
A familiar dream. So familiar. So much of a summoning,
A stirring up, a fold and an ache in the hearts,
A fold and an ache in the valleys and on the hills.
The wind will blow them away and the rains shall erase them.
As a long day in sun, the language changes.
What is smooth grows harsh. What is bitter turns to poignance.
(The sobs of the dying, lost in mud- one more ridge, lads, one more.
We shall be remembered in stained glass,
On stained grass, on mud among the poppies of remembering
And poppies of forgetfulness, my love.)
They stretch out and pierce through the noise.
Given any chance they shall strain to matter.
Our dear dead ones and our forgotten ones.
Beneath the skin, beneath the soil, beneath the silence.
Their names echo around our lips as we sleep.
Under lids the eyeballs roll and flutter.
Is it for this, only for this, just for this,
And one more, one more kiss, lip to lip,
Breath to breath, sigh to sigh.
The river sweeping it all away.

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Catalogue

rivermouth of the man-servant
house of the councillor
ridge road by the forest’s edge
the abbot’s land.
the dark stream and the winding river
dipped between the domed land
sprinkled with enclosures of saints,
tonsured walls on green tumped hilltops.
the washpool, wolf’s leap, devil’s staircase.

thr whistling ghosts of drovers and the
warm breath panting of their dogs.
stories of cobbled streets and a wild language
far away.

with gold of many kinds,
they return to the long silence here
and the starlit grazing
of sheep at peace.

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Here is a map of the main Celtic tribes of Britain. The areas vary from map to map, but this will give you a rough guide to what is generally accepted as accurate. There are many smaller subgroups named in Classical documentation about which we know almost nothing….

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6
BRIGANTES

Soaring over whin and wild barley,
Watched and watching,
The eagle, cloud-friended, glorious.
The small ones, still, bright eyed,
Amongst the grey rock, stoat and hare.
The grey rock, the grey rock,
Still they stand, scribed and measured,
Sky-loved.
A dancing floor, a gaming board,
Dyed bright as day, mist-cloaked, wild.
We claim the heights,
For they are hers.
The Highest, folded, pleated,
A plaid of keeping.
Bright, uttermost, tower of light,
Our home, our name.

We hear the voices from the deep dwellings.
The liquid tumble falls towards the dark centre,
Scouring the grey smooth, a constant choir
Feeding the stone, feeding the soil.
From the heights we descend
And return spiralling, victorious.
Radiant cloud, rainbow mist, sharpened rain,
A slingshot of ice, a glance of gold.
Exultant, we look down, we look down,
We who dwell within the Highest,
Look down, reach down, sweep up.
Clasped firm, swinging, sky-borne.

****

The Brigantes were a powerful confederation of peoples across the North of England, specifically focused on the high lands of the Pennines, the central limestone lands that run down the centre of the country as far south as Derbyshire. The name means ‘high ones’, ‘upland peoples’, ‘people of the High One’. Brigantia is the name of a deity, translating as ‘Highest One’ or ‘Highest Goddess’. Limestone country is characterised by exposed platforms of rock, water-eroded into ‘pavements’, and deep sinkholes that open into complexes of water-carved caverns.

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The Giving of Names (continued 5)

SELGOVAE

A space between the stars.
Dark, we are wrapped, wringed,
Unnamed even,
A smudge in the night,
Inked, marked, shaded.
Climbing from mud
No thoughts of our own,
Blameless we destroy,
Blameless we create.
A shadow of the master,
A wish of the mistress,
A whisper down the dark glen
A breeze turning a cold cheek.
Iron in our word,
Iron in our hand.
Our word is iron, our grip, iron
Cold, certain, untainted.
Our way: a dance, a mesmeric shimmer.
Holding serpents, owl beaked.
Our silent gift a sudden end.
Blue grey the steady eye,
The black red bite of blood,
A howl at the throat, stifled.

We writhe through the night,
Shadow dance and skitter
Inhabiting the corner edge
Breathe on your smooth neck
Assay, test and mark the footfall.

In and out this world
A quick needle sewing new days.
In trance we enter in and out
Flow water-curved, spiral-tuned.

If you do not know our language
If you do not know our ways
If you do not sing the fierce heart’s song,
It will only be fear and endings for you.

Ghosting through dawn’s slice
Nothing but a dream we were
Returning, filtered, fading,
Explained away, laughed off.
It is you are deeply severed,
Surely marked out,
Stripped of doubt,
An offering, a promise.
The sign cannot be mistaken,
It cannot be washed out.
We who were chosen, have judged
And chosen. No backing away.

At dusk it will be the dreams.
At night fall, the voices begin.
The nightjar shall call you,
The fox mark your path.
Delineated, made edge,
An invisible will
You shall move silent,
A hush,
A fireside tale,
A moth’s flicker
A tremor of dust.
There and not there.
Depiction,
Painted warrior.

**

This arrived late last night. I wasn’t sure which tribe was ‘speaking’, except that it was probably from Scotland. The Picts (Pictii), was what the Romans called these peoples: ‘the Painted ones’, because of their use of body art. Body art was common amongst Celtic and Germanic tribespeople, so the Scottish tribes must have been in a league of their own in this regard. The Selgovae inhabited the Southern Uplands of the Scottish Borders, around the Upper Tweed basin. Their name means ‘hunters’.

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THE GIVING OF NAMES ( continued, part three)

5
CANTIACI

We are the people of the corner lands
The ones dwelling at the edge,
Catching the first of the sun.
Rippling out into the waters
The ribbon ocean wrapped.
White walls our fortresses.
White walls and long pebble walls,
Walls of rock, walls of water.
First home is our home,
First land is our land,
Nooked, swathed, sun-warmed
Honeyed. A hum of bees
In the woodland,
A hum of birds at roost.
Harboured, wave-rocked,
Sea-light our hair, sea-bright
Our faces. Wind-cradled.
The gulls on the tide,
The rushes hiss rippled light.
The forests silent now,
The deer move out to graze
In twilight. Our moon scythe,
Grains of stars, ripe, fall
To our winnowing.

6
CORNOVII

The horned ones
Gather together.
The delicate, fierce ones
Tree-headed, call
Into the dawn air.
A clash of antler,
A clash of bone on bone,
The learned dance, the wild dance.
Sap-sweet, Spring’s blood
As it rises. An arc of lust,
A braying horn, a mighty host.
Dappled, we move in silence.
One by one from shade to sunlit pool,
Grazing, given grace, guardians
Of the deep wood. Stepping light,
A crown upon us, a host of spears,
Scattered glory of light,
We emerge, we disappear,
Inviolable.

( the Cantiaci give their name to the county of Kent, in the SE of England. The name means ” peoples of the corner land”. The Cornovii occupied the middle west of England, towards what is now the borders of Wales. They are one of many tribal peoples who name derives from something along the lines of “the horned ones” or “people of the horned one”. In Staffordshire the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is still performed, where the dancers wear caps attached with sets of deer antlers.)

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