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Llewelyn’s Last Morning
(Mass at Llanynis)

A bright morning
for Llewelyn.
Sun through cloud,
The white trees
in waiting.

River is hushed
And the hymns
urgent and quiet.

Before you and after you,
these stones:
Ship of God,
anchored in meadowland.

Before you and after you:
This carved stone pillar,
Woven knot
and lichen bright.

In memory,
to lay them at peace who fell,
Their names are
grass’s whisper only.

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The last native Prince of Wales, Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, is said to have had communion at this small church on the morning of 11th December 1282 before he and his troops were betrayed and ambushed a few miles away on their way to capture Builth castle. It is a small church, not now easy to find, and lies in the middle of a field with only one or two farms nearby. Across the River Irfon at Cilmeri is the well where Llewellyn’s severed head was washed. His troops were scattered and the cause of a Wales ruled by their own nasty, Welsh, nobility ( as opposed to nasty Anglo-Norman nobility), lost. The carved cross-stone looks to be an old grave slab, carved on three sides, but I have found no information about it. In general, these stones were carved between the 9th and 13th centuries – so it would probably have been in the church or churchyard in Llewelyn’s time.

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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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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 OLD MAPS

These threaded paths, it seems, fade first
As the stones are scattered,
hearths humped green and cold,
Byres split, lying sky open,
No more the warm breathed huddle.
No more the feet trampling bracken down the hill.

The roads, though, weave on, either greater or slighter.
They follow the slopes of land and hedge,
Over ford, under the woods, around murk and mud.
Ropes between names that remain much the same.

On the old maps the boldest lines are given to hills and rivers,
The certain land, the shaped sky, the body’s eye for how far to go.
Bold are the mountains names,
and all the rivers and streams called out strong.
The railways proudly curved,
each cutting marked, each bridge, each station.

The nested churches, so many of them,
on river washed promentaries, round walled yards,
God’s garden planted with the patient dead.
All the departed flock silent to wake and watch
The gaudy tombs of the living, their leaden lovely flesh,
Their thirsts unquenched, drowned even, downcast even,
Lost in a mistaken world, old maps redrawn,
The roads lost, the roaring wind, the bleak days.

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TWO BY BEULAH

1
A break in the cloud:
A mouth of light
Drifts slowly over Beulah.
Dawn cannot be long.

Bats flicker vision,
A fluttering heartbeat.
Warm air, rain-wet
And rose-heavy.

2
The road sways soft
Down to Beulah.

Drowsy with valerian,
Hammocked easy
On sweet drift meadowsweet.

Awake the spired, serry willowherb,
And betony: scatter of exclamation.

We float light upon
Our own bright shadows.
The afternoon sun
And cloud valleys singing.

The road down to Beulah
Under the mountain.

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Spring
in Llangammarch:

Every house
a nest.

The cool air,
a wash of song;

The river,
a sighing.

Even in rain,
The sun enfolded

bright
In the heads
of daffodils.

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These hollowed mountains, older than God,
Silent as Sundays, nursing rain and cloud,
And a clamour of downward waters.

Their slopes and sides are vowels,
Gutteral consonant: their crags
And rock-roofed alleys.

Hunched hands, their deep, rooted grasp
Throwing off spin and galactic centuries.
Time themselves do they assiduously weave:
Long blankets of brown and green,
A heathered tweed and bluebells,
Cried through, a thread of kite and hawk.

Long the slope that spits splintered bone.
At evening, those sharp-eyed fires
And the watching dogs that greet and howl
The name of each ghost, every whisper from the wood,
The long and soon dead, the turning, slow, small folk.

Jarred boughs here do never bend in pain,
Tracking sun’s warmth, laying memory in circles,
Pooled and stretched out beyond year on year.
A balance of the in and out, dawn and disaster.

This rise and fall of heaven, slap of compassion,
A weight waiting to awaken, a spark of circumference,
A hedge to the commonest sense.
Ground down to grit and simple soils,
The grey slate washed midnight clean,
Scoured sinless and unexpectant,
Eyes ever upwards,
Each glorious dawn.

—-

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