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TWENTY YEARS ( OF DRUID TRAINING)

1

It was like a rope of light

let down into the chaotic darkness.

Only later would we see

it was a deadly serpent

and the chains of enslavement.

But such is the nature of knowledge

and we shrugged, accepting all costs.

.

Nyt o vam a that

Pan y’m digonat

.

It was not from a mother and a father

That I was made.

.

2

One year we were held in complete silence.

No word spoken

but internal recitation of all the masters’ words.

Becoming each one, and their lilt,

moving into their expressions,

reclothed in passions,

Eyes opening in other worlds.

.

A’m creu a’m creat

O naw rith llafanat;

.

And my creation was created for me

From nine forms of consistency:

.

3

Another year we each were given

one word only, to unwrap.

To follow, to hunt to its uttermost,

to its bright birth,

In a name that has become ours alone.

A map of our journey,

a seal on our circumference.

.

O ffrwyth, o ffrwytheu,

O ffrwyth Duw dechreu;

.

From fruit, from fruits,

From God’s fruit in the beginning;

.

4

Once the words were learned

all the rhythms and the hidden wealth:

We could see how nothing existed

outside of those patterns of plaid.

No move, no colour, no conceit,

nothing that was not drawn

from that well of words.

And so we learnt to see around us,

in every hall, in every byre,

where each would walk

and where in each tale

they would place themselves.

And how with a word

it might be shifted

and how with a gesture

the plot might be moved on.

.

O vriallu a blodeu,

O vlawt gwyd a godeu,

.

From primroses and flowers,

From the blossom of trees and shrubs,

.

5

One year we were given

the gift of madness.

.

Prid o pridet

Pan y’m digonet,

.

From earth, from the sod

Was I made,

.

6

Another year we slept all the long days

and at night gathered around still pools

to learn the dance of stars, and their songs.

Our dreams would be strange then,

and our names, unpronounceable

.

O vlawt danat,

O dwfyr ton nawvet.

.

From nettle blossom

From the ninth wave’s water.

.

7

One year we would speak only lies,

until we knew that truth is itself a lie,

and that the tides beneath us

are drowning darknesses

and screaming passions.

.

A’m swynwys-i Vath

Kyn bum diameth.

.

Math created me

Before I was completed.

.

8

A year as birds

soaring and rising on thermals,

to find the fulcrum of the winds

and to twist the cloud rivers to rope

for sun or rain or storm.

To placate, to restore.

.

A’m swynwys-i Wytyon

Mawrut o brithron.

.

Gwydion fashioned me

Great enchantment wrought by a magic staff;

.

9

A year abiding by trees –

some would not return,

fertilising the world

with their eternal silences.

.

O Eurwys, o Euron,

O Euron, o Vodron;

.

By Eurwys, by Euron,

By Euron, by Modron;

.

10

Another, we hunted and slew all the gods,

taking their women and siring new progeny.

These we fed with our own blood and souls,

so that they would know us when we summoned them.

.

O pymp keluydon

Arthawon eil math –

Pan ymdygyaed.

.

By five enchanters

Of a kind like godparents –

Was I reared.

.

11

One year to placate and cajole poisons.

Those songs were enticing, sweet as death.

.

A’m swynwys-i wledic

Pan vei let loscedic.

.

A ruler fashioned me

When there would have been a burning extent.

.

12

Then we did all return to our own families

To serve one year, unrecognised, in their midst.

For many that was the final chain broken to the past.

Allegiance of blood once sweet, now rancid, old, bitter.

.

A’m swynwys sywyt

Sywydon kyn byt,

.

The wisdom of sages fashioned me

Before the world was made.

.

13

A year of folding secrets into the mundane;

Of speaking to the deep;

Of remaining human.

Learning that love and hate

Are the gravity that keeps us here.

.

Pan vei genhyf-y vot,

Pan vei vach veint byt.

.

When I had being,

When the extent of the world was still small.

.

14

A year polishing swords and mirrors

And placing the singing spells

Of vision and death within them.

.

Hard bard bud angnawt,

Yt uedaf ar wawt

A traetho tauawt.

.

A fair poet, of unusual gifts,

I control in song

That which the tongue utters.

.

15

The genealogies of the lost

And the equations of gods;

Their doorways, their doorkeepers.

The mysteries under the earth

Where the stars wander,

Passionate light on an endless river.

.

Gwaryeis yn llychwr,

Kysceis ym porffor.

.

I played in the light,

I slept wrapped in purple.

.

16

The transmutation of the body into smoke;

To see without eyes;

To move the shining streams.

.

Neu bum yn yscor

Gan Dylan Eil Mor,

.

I was in the citadel

With Dylan Son of the Sea,

.

17

To become free in chains;

To remember the first cauldron

And the journey from there.

Brightness remaining.

To give everything away,

Yet remain undiminished.

.

Yg kylchet ym perued

Rwg deulin teyrned.

.

My bed in the interior

Between the knees of kings.

.

18

To summon guards and guardians;

To curse the dreams of kings;

To know the stars’ positions in daylight;

To travel out on rays of light;

.

Yn deu wayw anchwant:

O Nef pan doethant.

.

My two keen spears:

From Heaven did they come.

.

19

To know one’s manner and time of death;

To move into other forms;

To prophesy and to escape from prophecy.

Transformation at the moment of death;

To remember every name and

The shape and hungers of souls.

.

Yn Annwfyn llifereint

Wrth urwydrin dybydant.

.

In the streams of Annwfn

They come ready for battle.

.

20

To return to simple words,

To return to silence;

To remember and forget,

To move freely without ripples.

Three drops spinning –

Their taste, the honey moment.

To know that all is song.

That all is one song, one river,

And to listen to the winds from the hills there,

From the rapids, from the shallows,

To leap upstream, to float downstream.

To inhabit the world that inhabits the wise.

.

Ef gwrith, ef datwrith,

Ef gwrith ieithoed.

.

He made, he remade,

He made languages.

.

Llachar y enw llawffer,

Much llywei nifer;

.

Radiant his name, strong his hand

Brilliantly did he direct a host;

.

Ysceinynt yn ufel

O dosas yn uchel.

.

They were scattering in sparks

From a drop in the heights.

The Welsh is taken from ‘Cad Godeu’, a long and mysterious poem attributed to Taliesin. It is not meant as a commentary on my verses, nor the other way round. But perhaps they both come from the same place and act as a counterpoint in time and space.

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THE TALIESIN SHADOWS

1

He comes forth by words,

out of darkness and brightness

(we, watching, blinded by both).

.

Out from blood, out from skulls,

out from the groves and the mist.

.

They tumble, birds from nets,

these wild words seeking skies.

.

The scent of oak and moss,

the scent of rust and iron blood.

.

A thousand years,

and still no-one has fathomed its depths.

.

The evening sky swept clear of life and death,

autumn clear with the tooth cold edge to it.

.

He has learnt to weave the shadows.

Mystery is his cloak, a feathered cloak of wings,

wings of words.

.

The meat of the past, the blood and muscle

of all forebears held in rhythm and sound.

.

They have perfected their own shadow,

full of mystery and silent horror.

.

Persistent dreaming encourages a certain familiarity

with dear monsters. “My awen is an ash spear”.

.

We talk to the spirits of the dead,

recounting their stories, reviving their memories,

reincarnating the spirit.

.

I will sing and sing and sing your words.

Your voice feeds my nerves

and I become, first, between, then other, then empty,

and you can walk in.

.

My shadow

becomes your shadow,

your words,

my words.

.

2

I open my mouth.

There is silence.

But now the wind

From the graves

Forms sound, the vowels,

The rivers of sound from the caves of wisdom,

From the mounds of remembrance.

.

I will not sing to the lords, to the rich kings.

I sing to the free, who lack good weather,

Who seek rain in drought, seek sun in storm.

.

The space of song.

They listen and travel through these words

To become closer to the divine.

This is my space. The protective weaving of poets’ words.

Enwrapped, entranced, protected within the poet’s rhythm.

3

Cauldron

This cauldron: iron hard consonants

Wrapped round and shaped by the curve of vowel.

What will it not encompass?

What shall never be encompassed by it?

.

Awen is greater than this cauldron’s expanse,

Awen is deeper than its deep resounding belly.

Powerful is the echo of that fortress of truth,

Yet an echo in the hills of distant thunder is what it is.

The ocean roar of awen in the cursive chambers of shell and bone:

A whisper of voices, millions, there are millions, from the deep before.

.

Deep as this cauldron is, and as ancient as its gigantic creators,

It cannot contain the horizons of Annwfn.

One part is understood and named,

Four-fifths remain eternally hidden.

A clear light blinds by its brightness

And the shadows deepen wherever it shines.

It cannot be named by names, it cannot be sung by songs,

It cannot be understood by philosophy,

It cannot be measured by maps.

Look up, look down, at the revolving stars:

It is there and not there.

Stir the bubbling verses in the honey cauldron:

It is there and not there.

In the breath and in the void

It escapes the understanding as the sun at sunset,

As the cuckoo in winter,

As the wren in the hedgerow.

There and not there,

A diminishing cry

Stirring the mind of poets.

.

He grows from his words – the seeds of sound

On the soil of listening silence.

Embodied, he is mystic light, a tricky one, iron hard steel.

An evolution of the world’s voice found in the dark tombs,

A clothing of golden brocade for liquid tongues.

They whisper in circles in their root-wrapped rooms.

The transcendence of death by the sages, by the brave,

By the wise, by the heroes who pass between, who pass on.

I have placed the words of the past in my body.

Golden, they rise up when my tongue bids it.

The mead flows, we drink and are drunk upon it.

.

The deep speaks, and it stirs the deeper still.

We are echoes and can trawl

The life beneath the single

Small light of the soul.

This voice overtones infrasound.

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NIGHT RIVER

Hush, now, hush.

It is the night river rush

In the cool stumbling dark.

Echoes of dogs twist the silent wings of stars.

It is the thrum of moments being born

From the ground sighing upwards.

Orion and his prey:

Every night the same story

But we never tire of it.

The roads we follow to make it right.

The roads we tread to follow on behind.

Night river, going and staying still.

The night river lullaby in its blanket valley.

Tucked away and breathing dreams.

Tucked away as the heat evaporates,

As heads empty of thought,

As bodies drape and forget themselves,

As breath joins the river snd leaves, and leaves.

Night river, the cold as smooth and sharp as stalking cats.

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WHOSE EYE

Whose eye now rests unblinking?

These sorrowful scattered things.

Whose perfect recollection

Recites names and causes?

Who knows and can name

The wide, free roads to destruction?

Is it that there is only ever one timeless voice,

Bright-browed and sharply bitter,

A wormwood for awakening?

Slew the game and shift the form,

It can never break from the following cloud.

The storm crow cries,

Carrion falls to feed new flocks.

Day and night is his mouth.

Dawn and sunset, dusk and midnight.

They are dreaming

Who listen to that song

Dreaming it is their dream alone.

There is peace beneath

The storm of words.

One world anchoring

The roaring others.

Gather back your souls, lost and scattered.

From this forest undergrowth.

From the peeling skies.

From the long dust roads.

Gather them in the heart of a song

That will not brook nor break.

One season returning with bright fruit.

One prayer reaching the throne of the Creator.

All this is the debris of glory.

The gold that feeds the gods-

These autumn grasses are brighter,

These few days, more precious.

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BOOK OF RIVER

A thousand page book

On ‘What the Rivers Say’

Illustrated by hand with all

The ripples and such.

Equivalents of sound in line

And what the mind says.

And what the wind says

And where it leads

And where it leads back to

Again and again.

A work folded from

One sheet of paper.

A work transparent, translucent,

Opaque.

Where pages and words

Appear above and below each other.

A multitude of one view, an explanation,

A demonstration of the inexplicable.

And all the voices there,

All the voices from along its length,

Rumbled and whispered

And sung and roared.

Tiny sparkled voices, great voices,

Minnow voices, tree root voices,

Drowned minds of poets

And their pale ghosts.

Voices of tributaries, voices of puddles,

Voices of pools, voices of dribbles,

Of moss dripping, of sodden earth,

Of scoured stone, of squiggling,

Worming things.

Reflections still and stately,

Pride that confuses and leads nowhere,

But the doubt that up may be down.

And the river bed, ah! the river bed:

A history of shatterings, of droughts,

Of flood race, of lost footings, of twisted ankles,

Of sobs, of precious things lost

Forever, forever, forever.

Down to the sea with them,

With the gold and the glistening

And the feathers and fluff of life.

The leaves spun to colour

And down away, away.

Stretched from there to here to there,

Beyond distances and the taste of soil

And the taste of heather and the taste

Of ice and of wind in the sparkling hills.

Self-created words, worm words,

Caddis larvae words, fast, flitting,

Slow floating words.

Half sung, half spoken, half heard,

Half, half, some other,

Some other meaning completely.

Completely star-worn and moon-urged.

Life moving downwards towards itself.

A book of river.

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WAR HAS CAST THEM

War has cast them off the mountain

And they have never yet returned

Except their tattered ghosts minding flocks

And the wind and the rain and the ravens.

The stone, green under soil.

The soil, black under sedge.

The distance sailing above cloud

Shaped by worlds beyond reach,

Reciting the names, reciting the names.

SOME GO

They weave these times of plague

with threads of brighter days.

Sharing the names of farms and families:

Nain, hen nain, hen hen nain,

and the tales of the tales she told.

The hearths swept and re-laid

for an eventual return

after the storms of the world blow by;

the family bible left open at Lamentations.

Some go into the hills,

finding the silent walls

moss green, wide strewn;

the signs all but lost,

like the songs of living and dying:

the songs of harvest, the songs of planting,

the songs of weaving, the songs of lamenting,

the songs of losing and of finding.

It is the songs of living

that we have lost forever;

the songs of simple doing

that told us we were not alone

in feeling the rhythms of breath

as muscles worked and tasks completed.

It is all silent in the hills now.

cloud and curlew,

raven and lark.

Memories fade

as the farmhouse walls

tumble under moss.

Hold on to the names,

the farms, the families,

the cherished dead.

Over their heads

the world changes.

Plague days,

words dying.

The Epynt is an area of high uplands between the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales. A strong, rural, Welsh speaking area, the Epynt was cleared of people at the start of the Second World War so that the land could become an artillery training area. Eighty farms were given a few months to pack up and leave, breaking and dispersing a robust culture to find their own way miles away from their homes. After eighty years the land is still possessed by the government and this year many descendents have got together to remember their families, where they lived, where they moved, who remembers tales of the old days.

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CLOTHED

Clothing himself in these common borrowed words,

A certain style, a certain habit, turns it all around.

Anonymous ubiquity becomes an intimate paced voice,

The poet emerges from the rough hedge glowing in the darkening evening.

Everyone has seen the full moon a thousand times,

Yet still now sighs and stands still.

Clothing ourselves in another’s memory

Or dreaming a dream not even ours:

The profoundest philosophy here,

A truth of who we are, think we are,

Where our edges blur and meet,

Where our voices change key and tone,

And slip into accents unfamiliar,

Where we stop being who we think we are,

And for a moment, if only ever for a moment,

We leap from the endless river, glinting and free

Into unfamiliar harvests of air and evening

On the floating view of somewhere we can never stay,

Returning so rapidly to the noisy rush of time and space,

Swept downstream, singing tunes with a cadence now not ours,

Now not solely ours.

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DHRUPAD 24 (New Year) 10.1.2020

Slow, slow now, slow time uncertain

Slow as honey slow it is unfolded

The paths untrod, the ways clouded

The roads silver, the roads brown

The roads puddled poured into the hills.

The days slow, unnumbered

The days unencumbered, weighed in

Silence. Slow slow the revolutions

Of the red kite, the wheeling, returning

Circling in slow light in slow light

And the sun low and slow looking

Looking for a new name a new name,

And the air leafless, the land leafless

Something something on the tip of its tongue

A new name, a new name, a path

A new way and the small birds brown

And the small birds red and blue and brown

Pecking looking for a new name.

And all the dreams a-slumber

And all the days a-slumber

And all the seeds and the leafless air

And the falling rain dreaming and sleeping

A small new name, a new name

And the sparrows shuffling in the eaves

And the gutter rivers singing, chanting

Murmuring, whispering, breathing, sighing

A new name a new name. Slow, slow the days

Slow the days now, time as thick as honey drips

Pools and falls and collects time taking shape

Shape taking space space taking voice voice

Murmuring a dream here, a dream here a new

Name a new name a name a new name, slow.

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DHRUPAD 20 (this moment)

Look, look, look now, this this this moment
this this moment, how it is, how it is,
this this moment, how it is, how still
how fast, how still, how fast, how sweet
how fast, river river river singing fast
how this moment river singing fast, singing fast
and slow slow light filters down filters leaf down
green down wavering waving wavering
leaf green filter down and dreaming
and dreaming dreaming mind watching nothing
in nothing in nothing in particular look look
this moment nothing in particular still and sweet
fast and how sweet how still how sweet
swinging cloud river silence wind river
silence green river, silence sky river,
silence shadow river, silence sweet sweet
how this is this is look dreaming mind
river silence how fast this moment
how still this fast particular moment
shattered split open open silent open
cool open eye open surprised by nothing
by nothing but itself carving time
and itself look look how it is
how it is how it is.

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DHRUPAD 16 (samhain slips by)

We thrum year long year long inescapable inescapable echoes
they say as if as if as if there were something
eternal ineffable about to be spoken though now we wait and
there seems to be nothing but a small wind and the river’s sound and the hiss and hum in the fire of time cascading changing leaving leaving
the door is open the door is closed the draught of it moves the clock’s hands a little ever so little towards a midnight midnight
sitting quiet and upright shawled in stars looking for language taking futures from strands stranded past the pain still listing twisted too hard to let go of too hard too preciously golden edged.
Names all their names uttered at once a storm river
the trees reach sway and sea march inland between the salt grasses one or two feathers glutinous congealed no longer for flight but maybe sharpened pointed or word
the scrape on vellum
careful careful
meaning will pounce and the size for the translucent thin gold
to hold haloes and beginnings where the saints heads roll down to the deep well’s echo.
That is where it all leads the dust the dirt the glory down down down to the soils end
to the speaking dreaming rock that quakes and shivers under angels wings all under angels wings.
Mixed is their histories and their passions and their stories and the endless excuses and the smouldering lusts and the hope for more or something else or more
or more
or more in a heartbeat it flows away
ungraspable music the night slays the flow the midnight bell the round horizons ring and the warm throbbing stones and the shift of roots and the heads rising rising up with eyes in the fast rain cool and flowering here now here we all are again
now quiet yourselves quiet yourselves
and we shall clothe ourselves in your passion and whisper futures to you while you while you breath and twist and curl upon the dreams we dream the same dreams still in the same voices and the same curses and the same blessings as our heads roll
severed into deep holy wells and slaked again our thirst slaked and fathomed and fold the wings so silent land lusts pure and everlasting as cleansed as
the dawn the dawn of tomorrow pale and thin and growing out from the slumber of it
seeded and uplifted grown mighty and tender.
Dream and dream and wake and sleep think thoughts and songs
we know all your words and in the order you speak them and in the lilt and muscle of your standing there
for we do not go we do not go we are not yonder we are not yonder slow the hours as ghosts we wander.
A shimmer of breath and a heartbeat that fades we dream we dream we dream between each breath and harvest.
Give what we must get what we can a festival of small flames and a sweeping of stars we plunge into the earth on every horizon map the paths you walk see they are our paths our places named and unnamed naked and smooth we bite the moment and walk between to greet you to
greet you to greet you our lovely dreams
our lovely dreams our swaddled babes our dearest wishes we greet you sigh and fill all space go nowhere go nowhere listen listen listen our lullaby lullaby lovelove
love we thrum yearning year long echo echo echo a small wind in the long night and a midnight door swinging open open shut but not locked never locked the fire is lit always always and tea is on always always
you know the path and tea is ready tea is ready in the birdsong afternoon by the shady trees and the distant sound of children playing and the hum of bees and something something something to remember to say, something to say.

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