Snow Baby by Mike Jenkins

You were a snow baby. We should’ve called you Eira. You were almost marooned in hospital: jaundiced face yellow as egg-yolk, clutched head the shape of a shell.

You grew to your name, Bethan, grew round. Your plum cheeks swelled to its sound.

And now in town you let the flakes settle in your long hair, saying ‘Ne’ mind. I like ’em there.’

I played you Ommadawn: layers of cloud frost, hail and sun climbing till that lightning moment when you were born.

Wrapped still throught frozen nights, layers of a nest taken from the strands of our house: broken violin string, discarded lace and strap of a watch you never wore.

Your dreams hatch and drift with feathers of the pillow-bird you believe in no more.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Red Landscapes

 


Fun Fact: Mike Jenkins’ daughter is the Welsh politician Bethan Jenkins AM, (born 9 December 1981), who has represented the South Wales West Region for Plaid Cymru as a Member of the National Assembly for Wales since 2007.

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The Hearth by R. S. Thomas

In front of the fire

With you, the folk song

Of the wind in the chimney and the sparks’

Embroidery of the soot – eternity

Is here in this small room

In intervals that our love

Widens; and outside

Us is time and the victims

Of time, travellers

To a new Bethlehem, statesmen

And scientists with their hands full

Of the gifts that destroy.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

This Winter That Will End by Margaret Lloyd

I have to admire the way your words

enduring and graceful create

just the right tone. Not giving

anything away but making it

clear you are enduring the necessity

of words for the sake of grace.

But are we talking about being polite

or are we talking about God?

In my mind I put your words

next to the old woman

whose knees and bare feet

froze to the ice on her own floor,

and was found days later repeating

‘Oh God, Oh God’ in Polish.

It was the officer’s opinion

this kept her alive. But was he

referring to speech or prayer?

If prayer, it was through

her continuous prayer, her prayer

was answered. Presuming, of course,

she wanted to stay alive. Often,

we don’t know what we want.

I fear this winter will end

and it will be too late. Too late

to remember our intentions, too late

to repeat what we never understood.

 

by Margaret Lloyd

A Star In The East by Idris Davies

When Christmastide to Rhymney came

And I was six or seven

I thought the stars in the eastern sky

Were the brightest stars of heaven.

 

I chose the star that glittered most

To the east of Rhymney town

To be the star above the byre

Where Mary’s babe lay down.

 

And nineteen hundred years would meet

Beneath a magic light,

And Rhymney share with Bethlehem

A star on Christmas night.

 

by Idris Davies

Vedran Smailovic by Mike Jenkins

People dash across our TV screens

like sheep scatting from a moorland blaze,

they’ll disappear over the edge of dreams

when we ascend to sleep away the day.

 

But, all of a sudden, within a frame,

a portrait animated and tightly-strung:

the cellist plays on streets where lame

buildings hobble before falling down.

 

His slashback hair is aging a rocker style,

upturned moustache makes a sign of peace;

his two faces: a pizzicato smile

and mournful vibrato of so much grief.

 

His audience are the pavement wreathes,

from the distance come heckles of gunfire:

the amphitheatre where he once bowed

is a frozen skip of bricks and wires.

 

On a thin point he gradually spins

the web-fine veins of an Adagio,

while hearing the bomb’s deadening dins

and fearing for that small bridge below.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto

Barn Owl by R. S. Thomas

i.

Mostly it is a pale

face hovering in the afterdraught

of the spirit, making both ends meet

on a scream. It is the breath

of the churchyard, the forming

of white frost in a believer,

when he would pray; it is soft

feathers camouflaging a machine.

 

It repeats itself year

after year in its offspring,

the staring pupils it teaches

its music to, that is the voice

of God in the darkness cursing himself

fiercely for his lack of love.

 

ii.

and there the owl happens

like white frost as

cruel and as silent

and the time on its

blank face is not

now so the dead

have nothing to go

by and are fast

or slow but never punctual

as the alarm is

over their bleached bones

of its night-strangled cry.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from The Way of It  (1977)

Some Gaze Into Tender Faces by Anna Akhmatova

Some gaze into tender faces,

Others drink until morning light,

But all night I hold conversations

With my conscience who is always right.

 

I say to her: ‘You know how tired I am,

Bearing your heavy burden, many years.’

But for her, there is no such thing as time,

And for her, space also disappears.

 

And again, a black Shrove Tuesday,

The sinister park, the unhurried ring

Of hooves, and, flying down the heavenly

Slopes, full of happiness and joy, the wind.

 

And above me, double-horned and calm

Is the witness… O I shall go there,

Along the ancient well-worn track,

To the deathly waters, where the swans are.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1936)

from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas