Thursday, August 31, 2006
The modern Icarus
Lacks the technology
To fly too near the sun.
Beneath stiff wings
He launches out
Into the blue of the bay
And looks down
On the inconsequential dots
Lost on the expanse of sand below.
But his freedom
Is an illusion.
He lifts and soars only
Where the wind wills.
Walkers pass him by
As he limps along the beach
Trailing his clumsy apparatus behind him,
Like a bedraggled swan
Trailing a broken wing.
With his predicament
And carry on,
Talking about wings
They’ll never try.
No hangliders the last time we walked around Rhosili. A couple of days ago a jogger fell to his death from these cliffs. He had run three miles across the bay, then decided to climb up the cliff face barefoot. He was 100 feet up before he fell.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Compulsive seeker of definition
Needs alter ego to share time and space.
Must have outgoing, lively disposition,
A willingness to blossom and to face
Your own timeless demons, premonitions,
Unwanted feelings that one’s out of place,
Far too high above your chosen station,
Virtueless, without a single saving grace.
In the crook of her hands, jewelled and hooked
A wistful clutching as she stood and looked,
Wondering why she’d rouged her cheeks, applied
Scarlet to her lips and, not knowing, sighed,
My emptiness is now complete tonight,
My darkness defined by the fact of light.
Have I really reached 50 poems? It seems as if I only started yesterday! I certainly didn't think it would be this much fun when I started, or that I would have reached 15 countries by this stage. It has to be Kilimt again today and the cycle of 16 is nearly completed.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Some time on the tattered, shifting fringes
Of memory, your first words
Gave tongue on the west wind,
Swept around lichen smothered stone,
Searched out crannies to take hold.
Some syllables foundered, swallowed
Without a trace, some etched
Behind a wrinkled face.
Later, the relentless scratch
Of blunt quill on parchment
Gave form to wind’s sighs.
Delicate scrolls lodged in dust filled crevices
Marked interminable hours
Crouched over desks in pestilential candlelight.
Then, the king’s grave robbers,
Book burners, tax collectors,
Spin doctors and thugs
Made their mark on history.
Words buried in scholarly vaults,
Suffocated in the ensuing
Avalanche of print
Straining for release.
Skilful hands engraved the slate
Near the shattered yew
Where rumours say you lie
Wearing a wry smile no doubt
Aware that when the hydrochloric rain
Has written its verse,
You’ll still compose
In shifting cloud, the rush
Of spray over black stone,
Sharp intakes of breath,
One man whose wit and humour
This poem is dedicated to two Dafydds, Dafydd Ap Gwilym and Dafydd Johnston, Professor of Welsh at Swansea University. The picture shows what is left of the yew tree beneath which the medieval poet is reputed to be buried.
Monday, August 28, 2006
They gathered in the failing light
To make a judgement out of sight.
The tongues of fire had passed them by.
Fear of Babel gleamed in every downcast eye.
Brand our children with one pure fire.
Hold them back from climbing ever higher,
For from that peak they’ll see unfurled
A different, tempting, dangerous world
And reaching out may choose to fall
Out of our grasp, beyond our call,
Beyond the claw of bloody nails,
Never mind ‘God Save Africa’,
God help Wales!
Written on hearing that pupils of Ysgol Dewi Sant, Llanelli, had been disqualified after winning in the Urdd National Eisteddfod, because their song in Welsh, ‘God Bless Africa’, had contained one verse in the original Xhosa. Cultures perish in the hands of committees!
Sunday, August 27, 2006
I stare at the mirror and what do I see?
A beautiful stranger examining me.
If I stood in her shoes, where would I be?
All poise and perfection and tranquillity,
The mistress of artistic fantasy,
Projected from some distant galaxy,
Created in blue spray, washed up from the sea?
A vision regarded most jealously.
Outside his studio, why should I care
As real life strips my pretensions quite bare
Revealing a pale shadow, posing there,
When the other me still lights up the gloom,
Turns every head in that spiralling room?
When darkness arrives, still dazzles the moon.
Carry on Klimt! Late with my blog today as I have just discovered Andrea Camilleri and read 'Excursion to Tindari' from cover to cover.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Her delicacy conceals an iron
Disposition. She poses silently,
Unfixed, unfocussed, disinterested.
The gliterati of all Vienna
Crave to take her place, here beneath his gaze
Awaiting transformation. Yet even
Now the untrained eye can see his portrait
Will never melt this sheet of solid ice.
The hands lay bare her thoughts for all to see.
White knuckles wrap nervously around
Feelings suppressed, swathed in cascades of white,
Whereof she cannot speak one single word,
Whereon she must remain silent, unheard,
Unseen, a masterpiece kept out of sight.
This was the first of the 16 Klimt 'sonnets' that I wrote. I was intrigued by ths story that the subject so disliked the portrait that it was hidden away face to the wall and I managed to weave in a direct quote from her more famous philosopher relative, who coincidentally was the hero of the late D.Z. Phillips, a long time adversary of the Left in Swansea, survived gloriously by his Nemesis Colwyn Williamson. I'm told that CW is on holiday in France and may not yet have heard the glad tidings.
Friday, August 25, 2006
The bombs rained down on Brecon last night.
but they didn’t want to fight.
White flags begged the bombers not to stay,
but missiles came down on Brecon anyway.
I heard this young scrap asking why
so many friends and kin must die.
Her father answered with a well worn sigh,
‘We are the chosen ones you see.
These bombs from Israel were marked for you and me.’
‘Those that make and send the bombs have said
no bombs are smart, unless the dead
can testify they work without a flaw,
the more black bags, the higher each bomb’s score.’
There are bodies in the Bishop’s Walk,
the Market Square’s ablaze.
the Cathedral is a smouldering wreck,
the dogs run round half crazed,
the canal is choked with corpses,
where once the Watton stood
and we queued in patient lines,
there’s now a field of blood,
the music’s turned to wailing,
the musicians all have fled,
survivors claw the rubble and
eye the skies with dread,
in the classrooms of the college,
the wounded lie in rows,
the Brynich’s crammed with refugees,
all around us carrion crows
feast from flesh in trees,
and yet the whole world knows
a country’s on its knees,
but should you, like our Prime Minister,
need to staunch this hellish smell,
follow his lead, just shut your eyes
and hold your nose as well.
The main idea for this poem came to me just over a week ago, sitting in the Watton Marquee, enjoying the music, but ever conscious that, as we relaxed in peace, the devastation of Lebanon was continuing.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Figures on a balance sheet,
Floating face down
In the bloody culvert of unconsciousness,
Within a roughcast concrete wall,
Comingling with the smoke
Grey ash and carbonised air,
Incarcerated deep in the files,
Silhouetted on a skylight,
Slumped in a heap,
In the basement,
On melting rolls of celluloid,
In a secret vault,
In a soft, padded cell,
Behind a blank stare,
A series of notes
In a long scream,
This is another poem inspired by the film 'Missing' and events during Pinochet and the CIA's coup in Chile. Sadly it could apply to so many other different countries as well.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
( Vanessa Paradis )
Balanced, poised up on the parapet,
Her eyes yearn for the black water, yet
A blank board is all she’ll ever get
For living this life without a net
To trap her should she slip and pall.
Just as her reflection seems to call
For an action that will end it all,
With one swallow dive or waterfall,
Films blur through her troubled mind.
She’s searching, but she searches blind.
One man becomes another, then fades.
She hesitates above the fall.
She’s waiting for the voice so small,
Dreaming of loves to come and knives.
I'm adding this film to my list of favourites. Only the French could pull something like this off!
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
They say that certain types of men
are known to beat and beat again,
until the blood dries up and then,
they fist and punch again.
Time after time she asked him when
he’d stop and so he thumped her once again.
He told his closest bosom friend -
You really love my kind of men,
the ones who bruise, then strike again.
So what message did the good judge send,
when asked to bring such beating to an end?
Well, he was beaten too, made him a man.
That’s nature’s way. You understand.
After hearing Professor Ruth Busch speak about Amnesty International’s campaign to Stop Violence Against Women. Manchester. 3rd April 2004. The art work is from Amnesty's Stop Campaign.
Monday, August 21, 2006
The man they called Matilda
Went on to rule the land.
The more he lied, he found
The more things went to plan.
The trick was in his easy grin.
The voters had no choice,
When he looked them in the eye,
The sincerest tremble in his voice.
It mattered little what he said.
He delivered lies with style.
The more his pals grew rich,
The wider was his smile.
Schools trained for unemployment,
Hospitals were staffed by the sick,
The trains all ran backwards,
Wise men had no time to think, '
Planes flew round in circles,
Seas turned from blue to black,
The innocent trembled in their beds,
Awaiting the terrorist attack.
Others paid his blood price.
Whilst Matilda slept at ease,
They sweated in the desert,
Deprived of any peace.
No matter what the issue,
No matter what you mention,
Matilda comes up smiling
And we get PM tension.
When the Bliar attended Fettes College he was given the nickname 'Matilda' by fellow pupils after the Hilaire Belloc character who 'lied and lied and lied'. How perceptive schoolkids are! How little things have changed! I am considering doing a major re-write of this piece as I think it is far too soft on him, so watch out for Matilda II in the near future.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The fluttering seconds
Wing into minutes,
A rusting hand sweeps round
Your expressionless clock face,
The pendulum arcs in shadow
Tracing perfect lines in damp sand.
High in the roof
A treacherous, cracked tile admits
A ray of light,
Which threads its way
Down through dense layers of dust
Onto the cathedral’s stone floor.
But the earth stands still.
The silence breaks
Before the diesel’s roar,
Of caterpillar tread,
Screeching bulldozer blade,
The chain’s links are broken,
Oblivious in concrete.
But the earth still stands.
This poem kicked off with Umberto Eco's great book which knocks Dan Brown for six and pre dated him by a long way.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
His agents provocateuses, unlike men
Who seek to be invisible, waiting
With a well timed obscenity, or a
Shove in the back to inject confusion,
For their weapons choose innocence with guile,
Shattering complacency, slapping your
Stubborn faces with a satisfied smile,
Inducing anarchy with defiant style.
We bring out the red in you, hot flushes
Out in the open, anyone can see,
No furtive groping in guilty bushes,
No secret messages from her to me,
We offer only openness, honesty,
Breaking boundaries with transparency.
You have to stop and think about where and when Klimt painted this portrait to appreciate how far ahead of his time he was, when there are still people today who are uncomfortable with the idea that people of the same sex might love each other.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
the why we dream the ways we do,
when night unfolds impatient senses
to perform the senseless rituals of light.
The once he glimpsed a broken chain,
the once an outstretched hand,
the once was sure the sucking oil
beneath the shifting sand.
He saw my fingers
fret the pieces,
twist them round
to force the fits,
to find a pattern,
scattering illusive bytes.
in the forest of searching voices,
in the city of leaning towers,
in splendid isolation,
by the slippery hours.
Awake our eyes
take in a shattered landscape,
hanging, leafless, burning trees,
a filthy stream bleeds through the suburbs,
inhuman, sullen refugees, lost children
limping through the rubble,
faces fixed in black and grey.
Each one frames the awkward questions -
Is logic hidden in starvation?
Can Death reason man to man?
We’d rather eat then sleep
than search for answers.
Let others find them,
if they can.
And knowing this,
on dreamless days,
go Dog and I,
at a glowering sky.
I knew she was insane, all alone,
Stomping up and down Church Street,
Bone-like face, raven hair electrified,
A disconnected hand flailing
At the fading light,
Her shrieking scarlet mouth
Filling my space,
Though I could not hear a single word,
Invisible where I cowered
Behind a pint in the Old Arcade.
Rippled across the pavement
Then shrivelled into a sea of tears.
Shoulders convulsed. Uncomprehending rage
Rolled her eyes skyward, cloudy, misty, bright.
A new strain of urban dementia?
First victim of a chemical attack?
Then she turned to face me and I knew
It was only the mobile phone.
I know it's happened to you!
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
She parts the crowd
Straight to me,
A brief meeting
A look that goes
Right through me.
The pedestrian tread
Picks up pace.
My feet fly
The endless marble staircase,
Or describe pirouettes
Around a lamp-post
In the rain.
Alone under the lights,
My vision clears
To find a bare stage
And a house empty
But for the echoes
Of my dancing feet.
Just to prove that I don't just do misery and death!
Monday, August 14, 2006
All our senses. Sober men avert their
Minds. Chaste women face away, lest trembling
They ignite unquenchable desires. This
Is how Man’s fall began, thus we end like
Her, drowning in a Midas light, food for
Rebellious, curious, feasting eyes,
Desperate, in love with that which we despise.
Should the golden scales fall from our eyes as
Leaves from the Tree of Words, should the mysteries
Of Sleep reveal the secrets of this strife,
Then, with the parting of her lips, sweet breath
Shall inform us with an obvious truth -
From deep within this sea of limbs comes Life.
Klimt outraged and attracted in equal proportion. He seems to delight in pushing the boundaries and using convention against itself.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Loosely with crisp, white lining, in a box,
Anonymous, shelved in darkness, it rests,
Turning yellower with the passing years.
She has a haunted look, her spirit trapped
As keys grind round in irrevocable locks,
Anxiety thudding wildly at her breasts.
There’s no way back through this veil of tears.
Did these dry bones live? In deft tones of paint
Her rosy flesh survives. You sense a faint
Impression, enough to realise need
To delve beyond the brushstrokes you first read,
Understand what was in that image lost
White hot passion beneath a sheet of frost.
The ceasefire in Lebanon is holding good so far. Time to draw breath. Back to Klimt. There's a touch of Miss Haversham here.
The month of the wolf.
At the edge of the 1ight.
The sprouting month.
Yes. T.S., that body that we strove to hide,
It won ' t stay out of sight.
The month of noisy wind.
Vulpine howling through the wires.
We stop our ears.
The month of the rising.
We wait at the gates, but the stone
Is unmoved by our tears.
Three milk month.
We twist our heads away
From the cup held to our lips.
The dry month.
We strain to reach but
The cup is snatched away before we sip.
Champagne laughter at the river’s edge,
On the other side of the grass.
Houses with their eyes poked out,
Willowherb spreading fast.
Long queues forming.
Beggars bent low beneath the arches,
Gape-jawed , slack-eyed, all knowing.
Blood month. .
On marble slabs
A merciless, blinding light.
Long endless night.
The wolves are waiting, out of sight.
The first version of this poem was born out of deep pessimism about Thatcherism. How were we to know that New Labour would move even further to the right and even faster? The structure for the 'calendar' follows an old medieval form.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Three at a time,
His scars livid with joy.
It was the day of the flags,
A moment in which to emerge
From beneath the iron bedstead
Which had been his home
For the past week.
His war medals chinked.
He breathed over them,
With a silk ‘kerchief
Until the sun
Seeing its own face clearly reflected
Turned to stone
And sank behind the cathedral.
Of two wars,
One time police spy,
The dread of every child
To the Carmargue,
Marched along to the field
Where his former companions
In patient, gently tinkling lines,
Waiting beneath clouds
Dreams of Empire
With faces of ash.
Head high, Roche comes
And is swallowed up
Into the trembling, suffocating mass,
to be spat out
Some three hours later,
to stroll proudly home
Past the wall daubed,
You who are about to die -
Leave us in peace!
And forget its meaning
Seven days ago.
This one goes a long way back! The poem describes Gaullist demonstrations in Paris. These marked the end of the 'May' days of France in 1968 and coupled with the infamous demonstration against the US war in Vietnam, 'the Grosvenor Square Riot' these marked my political birth. The poem was one of a cycle of six which won me the English medal in the University of Wales Inter College Eisteddfod. The poster is an adaption of one of the famous ones produced by students from the Ecole des Beaux Arts to counter government propaganda during the May Events.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Give me your hand Kalan Kawa Karim
Unfamiliar with my wasted land,
Not seeing the pools of sickness surrounding you,
You dream of mountainous horizons
To be climbed slowly, ignoring the pains
That nag every step on the way back home.
They call this road The Kingsway. You ask why
There are no monuments to their greatness
Being used to statues in any open square,
His face everywhere you dare to raise your
Eyes, the penetrating stare that reached where
None could hear your desperate futile cries.
You smile. The last time you saw him he looked
Like that tea cosy tramp in the garden.
His slack jaw gaped helpless for all to see.
Even a tramp showed greater dignity
Than this fallen torturer. Your heart leapt.
Knowing the return journey could begin.
Take the first steps then, past The Potter’s Wheel,
Feel your face fresh in the breath of sea wind.
Give me your hand Kalan Kawa Karim
There is yet one more dark night to cross and
Though all the time here they sing of welcomes,
Still fear strikes down the man who dares to dream.
There are still times when shame at my city can overwhelm me and this was one such time. Kalan Kawa Karim will never, in some minds be numbered amongst the victims of the 'war against terror', but I do not accept that this was an isolated motiveless racist crime. You hear about more and more similar attacks and the atmosphere that produces them has been stoked up by politicians, who once they have let the beast free just stand around wringing their hands at the consequences.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Jean Charles de Menezes
He didn’t read The Sun.
He lived in a suspicious house.
He had an odd, dark skinned way of walking.
He was an electrician
( though they didn’t even know that ).
He knew about the Death Squads in Sao Paulo,
( but not the ones in London ).
He had a fear of being followed.
He was scared of guns.
At the first sign of trouble, he ran. ( They lied )
He heard screams of panic and terror.
He didn’t understand
how quickly we are sinking.
This poem shows how easily even those who believe they are aware can be taken in. This version includes two words "They lied" which were not in the original, because it was based on the first press reports of the killing. These were, of course, a pack of lies. Today we find ourselves in the midst of a massive 'terror' alert. Let us hope that no more innocents pay with their lives for Bliar's insanity.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
( Advice before entering a makeshift mortuary in Santiago )
1.Wear warm clothing
to prevent excessive shivering.
whilst negotiating the bodies.
3.There is no need to look down at first
as all of these have already been identified.
4. Note how efficiently
bodies have been displayed.
5. Some bodies
have yet to be determined.
6. When necessary, use the framework of the iron staircase
to support yourself whilst searching for your own son.
7. Some corpses have been spread over the skylight
to block out intrusive light.
8. Leave the cinema during a cloudburst.
This will help wash away the tears.
9. There is no known remedy
for this knowledge.
The film came out in 1982 and there is still a community of Chilean exiles in Swansea to this day. The criminals have not yet been brought to justice. I could make a long list of all the attrocities that the USA has been involved in, but what would be the point. We all know. One piece of good news, the good citizens of Connecticut have buried Joe Liebermann today One down, how many more to go?
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
O little town of Bethlehem, how stark we see you lie!
Above tormented, restless sleep the silenced stars sneak by.
In every street is probing an everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of sixty years exposed in them tonight.
The malevolent eye,
the Mountain of the Wall,
blanks out the sky.
Each street. each square
is viewed through gunsights
but, even the sightless can see
our tables all laid bare.
Up there sprinklers ply
across lush lawns.
Down here the taps
Once I walked head high
up through early morning mist
and on that summit
found a solitary place to lie
Soak up the cooling dew
before the sun could scour
the slopes of yesterday.
Would that you
Had seen the tiny droplets form
on every blade of grass
a paradise of twinkling rainbow light
with the coming of the warm.
But no, that would have made of me a liar.
To understand me now, much better
You should see my tears form once more
on sullen coils of razor wire.
The title is taken from a traditional Irish tune. I was taken to task for perverting the hymn in the first stanza, but I still feel that the Christmas card image needs to confront the reality of a town that is dominated by a fortified Israeli settlement and whose water supply is controlled by armed zealots. Just look at the picture. How would you feel if this monstrosity grew up next to your town?
Monday, August 07, 2006
I watch life emerge from the centre of your cry,
observe the green seed as it surely grows,
then shrivels with a helpless sigh.
Who knows where the time goes?
We scarcely note the passing of the sun,
smile at the melting of the snows,
heedless of how the grains have run.
Who knows where the time goes?
The last wells gasp dry,
the weed supplants the rose,
light bleeds from a wounded sky.
Who knows where the time goes?
The gums of the Sphinx recede,
sand clogs the pharaoh's nose,
dims the eyes that failed to read.
Who knows where the time goes?
Nina Simone, High Priestess of Soul, we miss you, but your spirit and your voice live on.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
I too was a hollow man, powerful,
In a dream state, commanding everyone,
Not Jehudit, craving what I could not
Have and in my frantic impotence,
I fall for salted cheese and heady wine,
Like many men before me and to come,
When my thoughts were fixed on the night in bed,
Fantasy ended, as I lost my head.
If I come to you in such finery,
dripping in gold and perfumed to the gills,
Think twice before you make plans. Misery
Is a better option than death. Accept
Your limitations, or you’ll not see my
Triumphal widow’s cry of ecstasy.
Back to Klimt, one of his most powerful images. Notice the severed head in the bottom left hand corner! This poem is based on the biblical story of Judith and Holfernes, which is a classic of Jewish resistance, but it it is equally a classic of all resistance to oppression, which Zionists would do well to remember. Yesterday, there were 100,000 people on the streets of London protesting against the Israeli war machine and its few supporters, namely Bush and Bliar.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Do you remember where and when
The quiet American arrived?
He’s turned up again.
Was it in a Saigon Bar,
As he smoked a joint before
Dashing off deliveries
Of Agent Orange and napalm
To ungrateful Vietnamese?
Wasn’t he Savimbi’s friend,
Helping sow Angolan earth with mines,
There, where they still harvest limbs today?
That stage manager in Santiago,
Never really behind the scenes and then,
As thousands disappeared,
Didn’t he disappear just after them?
Who trained Contras
To be selective,
With nurses and teachers first
On Death Squad lists?
Now he’s planning to come back,
Where once he helped Sadam
Turn air to acid in Halabjah,
Bringing a new message,
Dropped, as usual,
From thirty thousand feet.
Some sounds bite better
Delivered from a height.
Weapons of mass destruction
And state terror
Just ain’t right.
He has such style,
The quiet American.
To visit you and yours
With his brilliant Colgate smile.
Two blogs in one day! I'm blogging early, because tomorrow morning at 6am I'm setting off for London to give Bliar what for. I hear he's had to cancel his holiday already. Good! The title of this poem comes from Graham Green'e novel of the same name. Worth a read to know that the leopard doesn't change its spots.
Ouside the blinded school,
A tank squats like a toad
On a jewelled carpet
Of broken glass,
Its one open eye,
The gun Barrel,
Traverses the cratered streets,
Keen as a scythe
At his father’s side,
A boys whimpers incomprehension,
As bullets bite at walls about.
One rips into his gut,
Leaves him twitching
In the suddenly old man’s arms.
Life’s sands spurts out
Of his shattered hour glass.
An ambulance stands idly by,
Parked drunkenly across upended
Paving slabs. The driver sleeps,
His body twisted oddly through the windscreen,
Half across the rust red bonnet.
Moonlight pours through bullet holes
Peppered all around the green crescent.
Hanging in the black sky,
The gunships deliberate,
Pointed rockets straining wait.
A merciless beam of light
Probes the rubble for more life
This first appeared on Gilad Atzmon's website, just after he released 'Exile'.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
I asked the barren earth,
watching the last goodness leach.
I asked the farmer,
who grew me the poisoned peach.
I asked the river,
stagnant, full of bleach.
I asked the dolphin,
panting life out on the beach.
I asked the butchered kite,
on hearing its final screech.
I asked the drowning sky,
slipping out of reach.
And presently. I turn to you
and ask of each
Dry your eyes,
make our tears speak!
The title is taken from the work of the Sufi poet Rumi when he wrote, "Is weeping speech?"
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
in the falsely promised land,
flesh fuses into stone.
Beneath a crushed home
children lie broken, silenced
in the name of ‘peace‘.
From the stretcher
hangs you daughter’s broken arm -
she’s waving goodbye.
how technology can turn
water unto blood.
to David’s impudent stone,
raining cluster bombs.
The six pointed star
destroys itself, in frenzy
forms a crooked cross.
At the edge of Swansea's Castle Square, in the shadow of the ruins of the Norman Castle, a 24 hour peace camp was established. From 6pm until midnight only one pair of drunks shouted pro Zionist abuse. Everybody else was sympathetic. Passing fire service workers, ambulance drivers, taxi drivers hooted their support. We hear that 50 coaches are going from Blackburn to Saturday's emergency demonstration in London. Bliar beware!
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
First October in West Wales the green bay
Hid under dismal unrelenting grey
Shrouds. Heads bowed, cursing rivulets that found
Weak seams and spouted spiteful underground,
Foul mouthing a prodigal sun, we turned
Our collars up and dreamt of days that burned.
An hour away the innocents slurry scorned
Walked their last walk in Aberfan, unwarned.
My garden now verges on desert, earth
Cracked, flaking, grass the colour of death,
Sky drooping, weighed down by impenetrable
Haze. Each sucking of air cauterizes.
A mirage plays where bleached walls.
Mark the well stone dry. Like fools
We beg the sky release the rain,
Yearn to feel the black ice tingle down our skin,
Ignore last night’s suffocating dreams,
Lasting memorial of a birth in pain.
This poem refers back 40 years to October 1966 when I had just arrived in Swansea for the first time as a student. I lived in a hall of residence on campus and I remember being woken up in the middle of the night, assembled in the Common Room and told that there had been a disaster. Students were being asked to stand by to assist with rescue work. We were not called out. The tragedy was in Aberfan, where a coal waste tip, undermined by days of constant rain had collapsed on Pant Glas Junior School. 146 were killed. 116 were pupils in the school.