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Posts Tagged ‘the dead’

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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KEY THREE

(St. Brendan’s Chapel, Barra)

Nowhere nearer
The Isles of the Blest,
The dead gather together,
Warrior and child.

Coaxed by a hand of hills
The land launched
Into silver sunset ocean.

Go on, you can do it.
It will be alright,
Wonders await you…
The voyage into mystery
Stepping stones to heaven.

Eternal islands,
Eternal seas.

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ARCHED (Exeter Cathedral)

I was drifting through, sifting through, drowning in, the looking for some particular misplaced images and came across some photographs of Exeter Cathedral from a few years back. As our local town, we are familiar with the studied, silent bulk of the building and can, easily enough forget the utter splendour of the architecture and the dedication and effort that went into its creation. Exeter is not the biggest, but it is a very pleasing interior. It has an impressive West Front even though many of the carvings are replacements for those damaged by bombings in the Blitz. Over the last twenty or so years the interior carvings have been repainted to show their original gilding and bright colours. The roof bosses in Exeter are amongst the best and most varied in England, with a startling creative effusion of the Green Man image.

It squats
Muted, beached.
A honeycombed carapace,
Scoured crab
On drift shoreline.
A cry of gulls,
Still
At evensong.

cathedral front

There is a steadying presence in these old buildings, like ancient trees they set roots and hold time steady, somewhere between then and soon. Continuity. Continuance. A maintenance of faith. A measurement in bells and lessons. An axis, both long and tall. An anchor, a haven.

Caverned,
A weight of years,
Halted, encapsulated.
The green lawns
Where tourists flop
And locals watch
Or lie back.
Below that green turf
Roil and scrape the
White, white bones,
Skull and lolly jaw,
Thigh and hip
pressing upwards.
Like worms by rain
The dead are raised up.
The warm flesh weight
Subtly pushing down upon them,
Disturbed, alerted by the murmur of the living,
The chatter of the breathing,
The careless touch, the laughter.
They turn and stretch and unbend
The need to leave the holy must,
The flow of air, the scurry of gulls,
The shadows coming and going,
Hiding and revealing
The saints’ patient faces
Always looking west.

cathedral yard

Always a little ironic to see the living lying on those careful, green cut lawns. The Cathedral Green quiet, serene, sedate, overlooked by tearooms, by tweed-draped windows. Hardly an inch below the surface, the centuries of the fortunate wealthy piled up closer to God, buried in the wake of His rock ship, harboured in the long hours, waiting resurrection, to join the sunny picnickers, the gossiping long-legged girls, the running children, who all unthinking, brush and pick at the grassblades, the stubble of the dead…..

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I will be posting more from this treasure-trove soon. Grainy, dark, inexpert pictures emerging from the shadows. a writhe of words and stone. my tongue is dust and forests frozen, illuminated, transfigured, made mythic…..

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CillChroisd2

The House of Trees

4

       Cill Chroisd

 

On the road to Elgol

That dances its way

In the dark and light

Of moving skies.

 

Breathing up and down

Sliding beside loch and ben.

 

Between the green toes

Of Beinn na Caillich –

(she, who, giving birth to the land,

Remains unconcerned

But ever watchful)

 

Beneath the raven’s wing,

Beneath its long, far cry;

Amongst the short grass,

Sheep-cropped and hummocked,

A blanket fit for sleep and dream,

They have placed the corners

Measuring the ordered landscape

Of the dead.

 

Here lies a MacLeod

Under the brown breast

Of Beinn na Caillich.

He has not angels by his head,

Nor angels by his feet,

But four eternal trees –

Green flames of yew –

To shade him from too much sun,

Too much starlight.

 

Four trees

Grown from his bones,

Fed by the exhalation

Of his long sigh in sleep

And promised rest.

 

They will be a shelter

From the four quarter’s winds

That winter howl along

The dark glen.

 

They will be a shelter

For the small birds

Singing him joyful

‘Til his Judgement.

 

A sure roof

Outlasting the crumbling of walls –

The green, sky-stretched,

Wind-hugged branches

To bear him back home.

 

Here he shall have peace.

Peace, but for the hooded crows.

Peace, but for the sheep

Tugging the small, green tumps.

Peace, but for the passing wanderer, curious.

 

They have built for him

A house of earth

For the earth of his body.

They have planted for him

A house of trees,

Seeded from his flesh,

Grown from his sinews

So that he can live for eternity

In holy wood.

They have built for him

A house of song-

The wind in the ivy,

The swan and the curlew-

For his soul to stretch out.

 

Who would not want a mountain

As a headstone?

Without cold in the bones,

A delight to watch for centuries.

Without a watery eye:

The storm winds, a delight.

And to drink the peace

Of the cloud-tangled rushes

In the evening and morning time,

Rippling with diver and otter.

Who would not melt to moorland?

Rich peat mixed with memories

Of the long-gone,

The onward patter of rain.

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