History by R. S. Thomas

It appears before us,

wringing its dry hands,

quoting from Nietzsche’s book,

from Schopenhauer.

 

Sing us, we say,

more sunlit occassions;

the child by the still pool

multiplying reflections.

 

It remains unconsoled

in its dust-storm of tears,

remembering the Crusades,

the tortures, the purges.

 

But time passes by;

it commits adultery

with it to father the cause

of its continued weeping.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Later Poems (1983)

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Sarn Rhiw by R. S. Thomas

So we know

she must have said something

to him – What language,

life? Oh, what language?

 

Thousands of years later

I inhabit a house

whose stone is the language

of its builders. Here

 

by the sea they said little.

But their message to the future

was: Build well. In the fire

of an evening I catch faces

 

staring at me. In April,

when light quickens and clouds

thin, boneless presences

flit through my room.

 

Will they inherit me

one day? What certainties

have I to hand on

like the punctuality

 

with which, at the moon’s

rising, the bay breaks

into a smile as though meaning

were not the difficulty at all?

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)

Aside by R. S. Thomas

Take heart, Prytherch.

Over you the planets stand,

And have seen more ills than yours.

This canker was in the bone

Before man bent to his image

In the pool’s glass. Violence has been

And will be again. Between better

And worse is no bad place

 

For a labourer, whose lot is to seem

Stationary in traffic so fast.

Turn aside, I said; do not turn back.

There is no forward and no back

In the fields, only the year’s two

Solstices, and patience between.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Pieta (1966)

Capel Calvin by Idris Davies

There’s holy holy people

They are in capel bach –

They don’t like surpliced choirs,

They don’t like Sospan Fach.

 

They don’t like Sunday concerts,

Or women playing ball,

They don’t like William Parry much

Or Shakespeare at all.

 

They don’t like beer or bishops,

Or pictures without texts,

They don’t like any other

Of the nonconformist sects.

 

And when they go to Heaven

They won’t like that too well,

For the music will be sweeter

Than the music played in Hell.

 

by Idris Davies

Industrial Museum by Mike Jenkins

For Adrian Mitchell

 

Hello and welcome to our industrial museum.

 

On your right there’s a slag-heap reclaimed…

a hill… another slag heap…

that one shaped as a landing-pad

for bird-like hang-gliders.

 

Notice the pit-wheels perfectly perserved

where you can buy mementoes

of the Big Strike and eat authentic cawl

at an austere soup-kitchen.

 

There mummified miners cough and spit

at the press of a button

and you can try their lungs on

to a tape-recording of Idris Davies’ poems.

 

That rubble was a 19th century chapel,

that pile of bricks an industrial estate.

The terraced houses all adorned

in red, white and blue as if royalty were visiting.

 

See how quaint the wax models

of women are, as they bow in homage

to polished doorsteps, the stuffed sheep

at the roadside give off a genuine odour.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Invisible Times

The Talking Shop by Mike Jenkins

In the Talking Shop

they spit out bones

which an auxiliary sweeps up:

they’re crushed and made into gloss

for the latest glamorous brochure.

 

They talk white paint, plush curtains,

flowers and plants in the foyer:

they shred leaves of Chaucer

to garnish an exhibition.

 

Cogs of paper push hands

and a clock somewhere

justifies its existence.

They decide to decide later.

 

All the pounds left over

from multi-gym exertions

are heaped on the floor

for clients to sketch

in their frequent boredom.

 

In the Talking Shop

originality is a luxury

nobody can afford:

and if you complain

the word-detectives soon arrest

your mouth and use it to bin

the scraped paint, dead flowers, shoddy curtains.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto