Categories
Poetry

Wishing…

Wishing everyone a peaceful Christmas and 2024.

I want to share this poem, recently posted on WriteOutLoud, by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, which was published in his 1971 collection Not for the Sake of Remembering, a few years after the 1967 Six-Day War, fought between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. In 1994, Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shared the Nobel peace prize with Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, and Israel’s foreign minister Shimon Peres. Amichai was invited to participate in the prizegiving ceremony, where he read this poem:

WILDPEACE

Not the peace of a cease-fire

not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,

but rather

as in the heart when the excitement is over

and you can talk only about a great weariness.

I know that I know how to kill, that makes me an adult.

And my son plays with a toy gun that knows

how to open and close its eyes and say Mama.

A peace

without the big noise of beating swords into ploughshares,

without words, without

the thud of the heavy rubber stamp: let it be

light, floating, like lazy white foam.

A little rest for the wounds – who speaks of healing?

(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation

to the next, as in a relay race:

the baton never falls.)

Let it come

like wildflowers,

suddenly, because the field

must have it: wildpeace.

Yehuda Amichai

Translated by Chana Bloch

Categories
Poetry

Twixt Pen and Eye

I, poet, may write of love
and in that moment feel
a meaning clear:
yet my soul knows love
my hand will never pen

You, reader, read that word
and think to know my mind  

I say you cannot know the love
my heart placed behind that word, only
your sense of the love you thought you saw

The poet can never truly speak
and have his reader know
his soul’s pain, his heart’s love.
Each word you read is ever stolen
from my page

Categories
Poetry

Grimalkin

A grey shade in the cottage shadows
a paw lick of sinuous silence
a tail flick of smoke
a pounce on time’s toll

Like a smoke devil escaped the chimney
she inhabits the lounge at night
never settling
she drifts across the hearth

Like the umbral weight of her past
she settles beyond my sight
I sense only the leak
of light left by her passing

Like the presence of an unseen wraith
she is at my supper table
to fill the empty chair
across from me

Like the gentle press of death I feel
her weight as sleep prowls
she makes no noise
as I enter our dream

Later she is an autumnal dawn mist
a purr of a past warmth
an absence that chills
as I greet another cottage day

A grey shade in the cottage shadows
a breath of sinuous silence
a tail curl of smoke
drifting across cottage time

Categories
Poetry

Trecefel

I wrote about the creation of this poem back in March in a post called The Welsh Swagman

The story of Trecefel, a farm near Tregaron begins in 1846 when, following his marriage, it became the tenancy of a man born 28 years earlier near Talsarn in the parish of Llanfihangel-Ystrad in Ceredigion. That man was Joseph Jenkins.

Bryn Du

Above Caron’s dark Teifi flow.
Beneath the white wood.
Beneath the black hill.
Sweet meadows and pastures lie
around a house
                                standing proud
over its land, over river waters 
shining in the Spring sun as sewen
break the stillness of the surface,
over high-hedged fields
bountiful with sheep and cows, and
in proper season with corn and hay.
Beneath the black hill
                               men labour:
the land prospers.

The Master

I was born under an inauspicious star
in the longhouse of Blaenplwyf,
cursed even in my mother’s womb,
I was given a stony path in this suffering universe,
my mouth both my strength and my downfall.
I learned, in a minister’s school,
                                my letters
and, beneath the calling curlews,
all the farming that my father knew.

In a decade beneath the hill
I have made my farm a showpiece
                                in the county.
Now, my plough and my goose quill
are each joyous in my hand.
Before each dawn I walk
the fields and hedgerows of my land;
at day end the candle’s flicker
allows another entry in my journal:
The winter river consumes the land and
I waded shoulder deep
                                to save my sheep.
                                Six lost.

Betty

How the mighty fall:
too many years have I suffered
too many times have I left,
returning to my father’s hearth
in sad despair.
                                Once
our farm was the pride
of the countryside – it prospered:
in the early years at haymaking
neighbours helped our people
with the scything, raking and carting –
now our hay burns and our crops rot.
My man has lost his way
and we cannot pay our tithes.
I will not stay!

The Milford Haven and Manchester Line – the M&M Line – would connect the deep water port in South Wales to the English industrial manufacturing centre. Joseph Jenkins understood the advantages that the line would bring to agriculture and to the rural economy and gave his full support to the project, often delivering speeches and canvassing for support. He was even invited to address a House of Commons committee on the line’s benefit for rural agriculture.

The Cut

Age of steam!
I am persuaded!
                                I see
farms, the community
advanced by the markets
brought to us by this marvel.
I will lend my voice to the cause!
Our lives will be forever changed!

Age of steam!
Now my land is overrun!
Navvies work on the Trecefel cutting –
the workforce is tearing apart my land,
desecrating my hedgerows –
everywhere there is a mess.

Age of steam!
Steam engines pass in the fields
                                below the house –
y trên cawl signals our break for lunch.

Who can know what insecurity and depression, what darkness so often filled Joseph’s mind? In his diaries, he often wrote that the fates were against him – ‘I am kicked like a football in this world’ – ‘I do feel that my life has become filled with sorrow and covered in darkness’. And he hated his inability to abstain from drink. In December 1868, he wrote that he could see no sense or meaning in this life – ‘I have lost my way… Life is nothing but a catalogue of misfortune’.

After Dark

And then he was gone,
Cors Caron’s peat piled high in the yard
against the coming winter.
By night he left
                                quietly –
Bont Ffrainc led him away
to walk the railway line north
to Tregaron station.
He entrained for Liverpool and
gained a berth:
                                Eurynome,
goddess of meadows and pastures
carried him to Melbourne
                                Nothing
was left beneath the black hill
but the river, the meadows, the pastures
and the wife

Ophir’s Bounty

Did he believe
as those twenty-five years passed,
                                did he believe
as the Ophir carried him north,
his wife, his children, his farm
had kept a welcome in their hearts.
                                Perhaps
it was enough that Trecefel 
might once again come to know his hand.

But he believed that he had to return: he knew
his heart was too deeply rooted in the land of his birth
he must be buried in his Welsh soil.

I am indebted to:
Joseph Jenkins. Diary of a Welsh Swagman 1869-1894.
Edited by William Evans. Macmillan Australia, 1977
Bethan Phillips. Pity the Swagman: The Australian Odyssey of
a Victorian Diarist. Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigian, 2002

Categories
Poetry

The Door

Unknown reader, be glad that I have opened the door and let out
the dust of my verse for you to see an age after the words first found form on the screen, or
perhaps I have let in your imagination so, turning, you can see a single almond
blossom, pink amongst its pale russet leaves, to tempt your words out

Unknown traveller, on this day, stay, venture out
and, before they fade, gather memories of your Spring in fragrant vases around the room, so
your thoughts today can grace some future verses you may set out

Do not press and dry the blooms

Categories
Poetry

Creation

As I write, each line reaches for memories
lost, fallen beyond the edge of the world:
kamarupa dwelling in infinity, fading

when my lines do not find them
and my words fail passion and desire.

Eons, lost pasts. Which of them
could dream my frail dream of this
verse? Which, thrown

across the fabric of time, could make
nothing everything?

Categories
Poetry

Consequences

Because I have seen
such small glory as heaven found
Lit translucent in the wing of a dragonfly serene above the dark pond depths
Lit gold in the sunlit pelt of that one white cat still beneath the tree
Lit in Spring’s faint skeleton of Winter’s fallen leaf
Lit in the fractal eternity of each flake that floats snow down
and know the pain each angel hears
Held in a single seadrop soft splashed on some high rock above the surf
Held in that single grain of sand that shapes the sloping beach or curving dune
Held in the horizon haze that surrounds my coast
Held in that seed on which all life is scribed
Held in the single tear squeezed from the duct
Held in each word locked behind my pen,
know that I shall probably pray that time dreams me more
and in that moment thirst for this man’s illusion and that man’s vision
for I can no longer sleep to sleep
to dream to write
of the mountain or of the desert or of the sea, for the world holds
no words again

Categories
Poetry

Life Tercets

1
A story about
                an old poet
    and his cottage

2
A dream of an old mariner
                lost in Wales
    adrift on his words

3
A memory of
                a young boy
    on his maiden voyage

4
A memory of
                innocence
    lost at sea

5
A line on a chart
                between a girl
    and loneliness

6
A communion
                between an affair
    and marriage

7
A vigil by a wife
                waves on a beach
    memory of a ship’s wake

8
A night on watch
                with a ghost
    of a girl above the horizon

9
A night at sea
                under the southern stars
    a sailor dreams of heaven       

10
A tear on the cheek of a girl
                writing urgently of love
    letters unseen for weeks

11
A union of words
                sadly disrupted
    by world time

12
A memory in the Welsh sky
                a poet sees dolphins
    in a bow wave of cloud

13
A murmur
                between life
    and rhyme

14
A dialogue
                between time and
    loss

15
A line of verse
                between loneliness
    and memory

16
A reflection of a man sitting
                beside a fire
    memories in embers

17
A poem about
                an old sailor
    in his cottage

Categories
Poetry

Genesis

Of the Dust of the Ground

Dirt!
We were held between the tangled roots of the tall grasses and the fragrant herbs
and, amongst those pale veins that gave them life,
teased by the whispering white threads of the mycelia,
pushed aside by the harsher muscular cords that gave succour
to the bright pomegranate and the fragrant cinnabar,
we were stretched  and broken as roots grew and gained power
yet we held their tubers softly in place and felt
the rhizomes spread through our mire.
Water fell and we accommodated it briefly
as it gave succour to our burden,
drained, and left us, dust blown in the winds or
muddied clay, sod that found brief form,
as the waters gathered and flowed,
servant to some greater force, to tumble in rill and stream,
to join mighty rivers, seeking their genesis.
We were the loam left.
An afterthought.
Dust!
We were the stuff of clay, without form beneath so much life:
above us we knew verdant vine, meadowland and forest
flourished in the mists as we—slumbering,
nascent among their umbilicals, feeding their growth, were
diminished by the day’s fierce heat to mere loess,
mere powder from dirt’s dust destined for desert or steppe—knew only
the mighty winds that reduced our substance
until at a dawn the brume returned and held the gusts at bay
and we were one, at peace between the green grasses and the purple thyme.
Then there came one great exhalation
and in that breath power came to our ylem soul.

Categories
Poetry

Annual, again

Amongst
the soggy rotting leaves
or between
the bowed grass blades
thrust
the tips of snowdrop
leaves