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Posts Tagged ‘the dead’

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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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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ORACULAR MESSAGE

In the woods, in the green wet woods

The dead are waiting with their songs.

.

They have longed for their flesh and they have forgotten.

The rivers are full of their passions.

It is a cold steel desire, a lust like winter.

.

It is gone now, subsided into multiplicity,

The tracks lost, the flash of prey in the bushes,

All become unintelligible like a valley dissolves in driving rain.

.

But the dead are waiting there with their slim fingers

To crack open your sight, to break open your eyes

The release the hawk of your mind, the hungry raven of your heart,

The river of your reason.

.

This is for you, a prophecy for you

Because you have read these lines,

Because of the intersections of the stars,

Because you are nothing but this,

About to be forgotten, about to be lost.

.

The dead are waiting in the woods, singing and dancing,

Forgetting everything.

.

You have dreamed enough.

You have destroyed enough.

.

They slide between species, have no regard for distinctions.

They breathe the matter ejected from shuddering galaxies into the void.

.

These words are not for you

But you must remember them and pass them on.

They are for the last one who leaves.

Who turns to flick the light switch

And with a small smile steps into darkness.

.

Tell them the dead are waiting in the green mossy woods.

Tell them to listen for the sighing song

For the surprise of pine scent drift singing storm winds.

Tell them to remember the small things,

The notions that eat worlds.

Tell them the dead are waiting

To take them home.

.

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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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DHRUPAD 18 ( war song)

A RE NE

It is
it is not words we need
not words but the song of words
the music of words
the cry and lilt and torn cry of words
howled out and yearned loud and quietly sobbed
in the silence of the listening hearts.

A RE NE NA

It is not words but the rain of words
the storm of words keening the keening
the wind whipping the eaves of desolation
and the sedges sharp and the sedges grim and the wild paths long
and the bitter air and the lost horizons.
A peal of words a crack of words a silence of words
naming each name lost
each heart lost
each breath stopped
each eye dimmed
each each each and every small beauty
each small memory lost
each small dream destroyed
each each each day gone and never never never sung of again.

A RE NE NA TE

Oh the songs they are all the same
from the bleak hills of the old north
from the brave fools
from the fast journey south to stand on a hill sleepless and doomed
from the quick soft slick betrayal in winter woods
the diminishing the diminishing of life.
From the long night trains into endless smoke stained dawn.
From the massing on the edges of death
and the bare skulls’ teeth with the crawl of yellow gas between between
and the loud death
and the silent death
and the long death
and the death of colours
and the death of goodness
and the peals of ripped hot metal ripped from earth ripped from earth.

A RE NE NA TE TE RE NE NA

It is the madness of song
the madness of words
the mad remembrance of each moment
endlessly unforgotten endlessly cherished endlessly endlessly.

A RE NE NA TE TE RE NE NA RI RE RE NE NA

This salt wound flowing
these withering withered hours that will not let go.
Wordless are the words of the song that we sing
a summing up of the sound of the world
of all time that was and is and will be
cast aside in a moment in a movement
in a drowned moment.

RI RE RE NE NA

Relaxed and airless free now of pain and forgetting forgetting
the drum of endless names lost
endless names endless names endless
this wordless song singing mourning all all
all lost held cast put away put away
deep deep deep in the bones
of the bones of the stone memory
of things named named named.

TE NE TOOM NE

I have included the mantra used in dhrupad singing: it derives from the sacred Sama Veda texts that primordially combine sound with meaning that goes beyond meaning. Any words we use to clothe the unseen depths of human emotion and experience only gain significance when they somehow fold within themselves the wordless music of the world. Poetry only rises above prose when it too folds itself into wordless song, when words become haunted with song that goes beyond and yet perfectly expresses, meaning.

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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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AR GOF 2 (past and future fragments)

Here lies this small enclosure,
this square of grass
And stone and hidden bone.

Here is the centre of it all
Silent and weeping and keeping tally.
From whence the landscape spreads out,
To where the past and future repairs
With aching knees and a clutch of flowers
And a hollow dream of howling wings
And a due certaintly that nothing will escape it.

What all shun they have embraced-
A domed silence in the earth,
A renunciation of edge and owning.

They surely hold to the habit of time and space for a while.
Outside, looking in, leaning back on emotions familiar,
A slow encroaching magnanimity of forgetfulness, a turn
Towards the cosmological, a more geological topography.
Becoming as light as willowherb,
floating breezewards down to the river.

A spinning wheel on singing axle,
A moonlight and a sunlight thread.
The fabric of things woven here,
inextricable mysteries we are ghosts between,
Caring not a moment to consider the seen nor unseen.

—-

It comes out from desolation on desert wind with a jealous stare
And has been dressed in robes of love
but knows better by far the hearts of men,
The weight of righteousness and of history and of glory unquestioned.
It builds upon the grey and certain unforgivingness of stone.
It chides and chivvies with heavy prophecy the call to war.
It is nothing less than storm on the mountain side, blizzard in the orchard.

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AR GOF 1
There now, pay no more attention to the lilt,
that may or may not be a fine day to the minds of others.
For it is all an amalgamation, anyway, with slivered choice
except the slow or fevered narration of it.
A voice will step forward, a pen will slide across paper.
(Just make it legible, eh? There is no telling what will
weigh in memory and what float off – much like these hills
that so often vanish into white distance and the leaning rain.)

Start from this place. A certain particular. A landscape of betweens.
North march the Cambrians. South, Mynydd Epynt. Great uplands
that funnel light and wind, two hands cupping the buoyant air.
And between them, two rivers. One called ‘river’,
the other, ‘dark water’. Between them, a backbone of rock,
rising inclining, steady to the sky. A spine, a fold from which
green fields reach and splay. A high road, once named
St. David’s Precinct, now defrocked to only ‘ edge of the forest’.
And so closer now, to the middle of things, by here,
a stone grey hulk of chapel, a beached ark, a barn of piety,
hunkered and silent between dutiful houses
packed close against the wind, west walls shingled,
chimney stacks smoking.

Goshen, it is named by irony or accident: sheep fields
of the faithful, set aside from the urbane and city lights
to avoid any unpleasantness from the uncouth and nomadic blood.
The chancy drovers of old languages tumbling half-drunk with visions
down winding trodden paths,
the sophisticated manners of moneyed gentility,
seen through and through in a side-glanced moment.

A self-chosen people, herded Godly and righteous,
(at least on Sundays, and a sharp eye kept all the days in between).
Stranded, stretched between all kinds of dizzy heights
down the generations, down the piled up, counted up centuries,
Surviving the seasons until the last, sighed breath puts them
tented under the ground, wandering lost and happy as sheepdogs
Amongst summer flocks and the lowing, sleek flanked cattle of stars.
They drift, on this and that tide, but ever anchored-
The painter of faith knotted firm to the chapel door
And the names in stone ‘ar gof’, still clear enough
for trumpeting angels to read
when time comes round to end for one last time.

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YEW GROVE AT LLANAFAN FAWR

1
Light sensible, thick as darkness
And light veiled, filtering downwards.

One red cup, one seed dropped,
Rippled out, measured by millenia.
A ring of sinew trunks, weighted, poised.

2
Where the old road
Cups the round, green breast
Of Llanafan Fawr.

Where the quiet mound
Floats above the heads of valley oaks
(Distant voice of rock-sided Chwefri).

Where the dead bask in sun,
Sleep in shade,
Their names carefully chiselled,
Painted, kissed in lichen.

3
Rising up
From the Underworld
Where the dead become stars,
Where bones multiply,
Where dreams are born
And shadows grow their own souls.
There, the umbilical roots
Bind light to darkness
Making song
That wheels this world.

4
Fed by scintillating constellations,
A certain, mutual apotheosis,
A rippling out of layered years
Laid down in sinuous orbits,
A hug of dimensions,
A vessel for longevity, for remaining.
Only holding on.
Only breathing.
A mirror from each metalled yuga,
Withstanding heaven’s gobby adolescence.

5
Three great props to prop the sky.
As the gods choose their own forms
Grown from curse and pleadings,
From a universal need, the deepest science
Of leaning upon
They have measured up,
Filled the matrices,
Solved the quadratic and the algebraic,
Judged the swing of planetary orbit.
Readjustments made, reconfiguring
A weighty gravitation,
Collapse, expand, spin.
(Those three doors all life dances through)

6
Old before the brazen, gaudy eagles
Meticulously trampled lands not theirs
To glut the slovenly cities of the South.

Old before the contrivance of contorted guilt,
The crosses to be borne or cast away,
The ring of truth, the hope of doves.

Old before the King of the North and his kin
Bred saints amongst sacred hills.
Before Dewi and Afan, (who, maybe,
Were as eloquent as uncle Taliesin),
Sheltered wise candles from the wild storms:
The slick guttering stroke of marauding steel,
Thud and groan and a pouring out of life
In a red gush, anguished and final, among the silent trees.

Old as the penetration of water through rock,
The endless drip to sunless oceans below,
Is the strife of men, the lamentation of their women.

Old, and the richest of composts.
The most intricate of tallies,
A long genealogy, a swirl of lusts.
All commingled, compressed, considered,
All fit and meet, an elevated sight,
A blossoming of poison and beauty,
A perfect circle, a sunlit ripple.
One tree is a forest,
One grove a memorial
To these thousand thousand lives,
Drawn up, drawn in,
Held, encompassed.

—-

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