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Posts Tagged ‘the past’

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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THE THISTLES

Cloud is down over the hills again.
It drifts and rolls between field and forest.
The valley is lain out soft and still green;
It does not mind the warm rain.
There is not silence, but it feels like silence.
Sheep shorn and the hay is in.
The thistles have a royal flower:
In deserted places, proud,
Like ancient tribes before the Romans came,
They gather and stand still.

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MARI LWYD 2

Sparks spin into night.
Through darkness a white ghost moves.
We follow, laughing.

Landscape remains.
Mind stays the same.
It is only the light
That changes,
Only thoughts
That come and go.
The music of it all
Remains,
Though the notes
Are constantly rearranged.

This dream so real
We fear there is no other.

We follow the grey empty void
For which we have made sparkling eyes
And a name and a thunderous roar;
And filled it with questions and answers,
Sustaining itself in darkness,
Intruding into our hearth.
Skull empty judge,
Bent bone and curved empty,
A void of time.

Lacerating tattered hearts
The wind that scars the hills
And incrementally erodes
Once warm moments
Wearing down words to screams,
Wisdom to leaden clubs.

A white sky.
Snow cold are the hills.
The rain freezes.
Beauty is not for you to survive,
But to savour
And then to long for forever.

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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.

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The image is from an old early medieval carving now above the doorway of the church in Llangammarch Wells

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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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Sure of this Sorley has spoken
His sweet scouring gravel words
Pure paced, precise grey grinding stones
Pouring splendid golden grain,
Eloquence of earth.

Though few have heard
Or paid him heed.
Old, tweeded, sharp-eyed scholar
Wandered, windblown on
Steep lined western shores
Between deserted croft
And sand-scoured macha.

His mountains named
One by one,
His steadings remarked,
His memories buried safe,
All buried under stone,
The language of remaining
Despite scorn and spittle.

A path half-made
Through hillside rocks,
The prints of deer,
Silence is the heather.
These winds whistle
Through an empty heart.
These words, a whisky
For the tongue that is parched,
A decent medicine
Against the clean sin
Of city streets,
Their promise to forget
Cold and weather,
An unceased consumption
Of time and art and loveliness.

Without the cry of curlew
Without the wheeling hoodie
Without the slap of salt wind
We think ourselves gods
Who are short, soft animals
One moment from bleached oblivion.

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KNIFE MOON

In the dark hills
Sons and daughters
Are learning how to kill,
Accurate remorselessness,
The wages of sin.

Down in the valleys
Translucent owls
Kill with God’s own
Gentle hand, guiltless
Down the hedgerows.

A knife moon glimmers,
Clouds severed
On a southern wind.

Out in the whispering,
Rainbow dark
The ghosts of shepherds,
Faithful dogs by their sides,
Long for the drifting flocks,
The steady roll of seasons.

Above the old forge,
The blacksmith’s arms
Aching with joy.
He dreams his cherry-red children,
A quenching thrust,
The soft pink blushing-
His sigh and smiling wife.

The warmth of our blood
We suck from the past.
Our heartbeat, passed on,
Down from when
Her eyes first opened.
We should be content
To simply sing our song
Then wait in silence,
Comforted.

Rain, again, on the glass.
Mist clings to the roots of hills.
The larch, tousled, twisted gold, leaning.
The grasses pale.

Warmth and good memory –
The past, our sweetest water.
A moderation for cold and bitter fires,
The burnished lies and stolen beauty.

—-

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Those distant hillsides,
They are not velvet, not green,
But bog and rock, sweat steep
For all but ravens
(Whose feathers we might wish for,
For straight as an arrow, for
Wind carried swift joy,
For the soar of it, for the wide,
Open cry of it, for exultance,
For freedom from sins).
But down here, wind-sheltered,
Small, feasting on cold hopes,
Yearning for mist smoked valleys.

Did they watch from alder carrs
The washer girls, raw red hands
And tearful eyes, arching backs
And mournful, moaning songs?
Did they feel the Lord swell within them,
Those saints forbidden their fruits,
Wilderness dazed, sharp chinned,
Spear-eyed witnesses?

So many brave boys borne away,
Cudgeled and shivered in blood.
So many unborn, covered in autumn leaves,
And wept over.
So many promises split, broken open
(Nothing but spit and spite remaining).
So many reasons to slide into silence
Hoping for a glorious trumpet
And ’til then, peace.

Of the earth.
They are all of the earth
And know it not,
Or birch their blessings
For want of wit and a little love.

The pines roar
But bear no anger.
The pines cry
But have no sadness.
The rain sweeps down across the valley.
Leaves fall, air becomes sweetly bitter.
There is no blame, should you stay,
Should you watch.
Everything will seem as it is:
Sun through mist, a mellow round passing.

We shall melt as we are gathered together.
Melt and become another again.
One or two words (only) to pass through
The narrow straits of a few years,
Before they too will become singing silence.

This melancholy is a cloak for deeper joy.
This deeper joy, a cloak for melancholy.
All notes sung before the throne,
Chords of major and minor,
Diminished, augmented.

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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…..

North Tower1

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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THE GREAT ONES

We make our own monsters,
Feed them and sustain.
Dark mirrors
That crush, embitter,
Defining right,
Ripping nerve from muscle
Leaving insensate force
To rule and chain.
Their names
Will live forever
While the quietly good
Dissolve back
As if never.

Their rise is ever
Our failure.
A choice,
A strong dream
Promulgated, given,
Over-ruling a more
Delicate path.

(The willows with their wicks of flame,
The hollow, tumbling call of the owl,
The sky’s gentle rain, fingertip chrism.
The hearth cracks as it cools).

The demons we have cast out,
Those we despised and disowned,
They rage free now, running the world.
Exultant, sure, unconstrained,
They know the fertile, dark earth,
They taste the mellow, crumbled humus,
The undigested decay of hopes,
The ephemeral, hesitant prayers
Laced through with doubts.
Wherever they step,
There is the cooling shadow
Of their triumph, the withering
Of breath, the tunnelling of sight.

(On the still air of morning, dew and mist,
A wood pigeon sails, glides, broad-keeled,
Down to its new nest, its new mate.)

Fire of mind spits and blusters,
Fire fanned and racing, consuming
To continue, eating itself, moving on.
Ashes, dust, smoulder, we eat all, move on.
A bitter combustion lacking all restraint,
Lost in itself, howling, ever hungry.

(The six lokas gently dance,
A play of blossoms, syncopated motion.
Gentle rattle, the bone ornaments,
As rainbow dakinis sway cloudwards.)

The rebels refuse to see any ineffable now.
Enough, they think: a trick that breeds complacency.
The will of Heaven: a slave chain.
Deceit they know: deceit they expect in all.
Their flowers that flourish are the bloom of pain,
The mistaken identity, the immortal secret.
Inchoate, needing all, it grows in secret,
Displacing order with hierarchy,
Growing its own executioner.

These are the Great Ones,
The Immortals, draped in gore.
Do not turn away nor shudder.
Only a clear morning gaze will cool them.
Only a tear-fall of bright dew will wash.
Refuse the spark to fury and fight.
Refuse the glory, refuse the judgement.

Our medicine. What shall be our medicine?
Measured poisons, a taste of death,
A return, a clearing of spaces,
An emptying, an unwinding,
A gesture of removing fear,
A small laughter, a shrug.

What shall be our medicine,
What our poison?
Stillness is an action.
Silence an answer.
No choice, still a choice.

Still the choice.
Remain,
Unhindered.
The roaring fires extinguish themselves,
A transmigration of souls.

**

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