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Posts Tagged ‘the dead’

WAR CAULDRON

Though they came back

They came back silent

And haunted are their eyes.

The ones cast into the cauldron of war,

An endless source of sorrows.

Silent from what they see.

Silent from what they have seen.

Silent lest the heart break again.

Silent lest the bones become dust

And the dust, the taste of death,

And death, not the worst of it,

And the worst of it, the endless lines,

Moving to the front to die.

Nothing learned, nothing gained.

The drum, the drum, the drum.

Eternal war feeds the cauldron

Dragged from the depths

Where it should have remained.

As if there were not enough sorrow

In this world already.

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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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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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