Outside the green velvet sitting room
white roses bloom after rain.
They hold water and sunlight
like cups of fine white china.
Within the boy who sleeps in my care
in the big chair the cold bloom
opens at terrible speed
and the splinter of ice moves
in his blood as he stirs in the chair.
Remembering me he smiles
politely, gritting his teeth
in silence on pain's red blaze.
A stick man in the ashes, his fires
die back. He is spars and springs.
He can talk again, gather
his cat to his bones. She springs
with a small cry in her throat, kneading
with diamond paws his dry
as tinder flesh. The least spark
of pain will burn him like straw.
The sun carelessly shines after rain.
The cat tracks thrushes in sweet
dark soil. And without concern
the rose outlives the child.
by Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)
Yesterday, the children made the street
into a stadium; their cat
a docile audience. As they cheered
a score it seemed there was a camera
in the sky to record their elation.
Men polished cars, like soldiers
getting ready for an inspection.
Women, of course, were banished
from daylight: the smells of roasts merging
like the car-wash channels joining.
Today, two horses trespass over boundaries
of content; barebacked, as if they’d just
thrown off the saddle of some film.
They hoof up lawns – brown patches like tea-stains.
A woman in an apron tries to sweep away
the stallion, his penis wagging back at her broom.
I swop smiles with an Indian woman, door to door.
These neighbours bring us out from our burrows –
the stampede of light watering our eyes.
By Mike Jenkins
from Empire of Smoke
The cat walks. It listens, as I do,
To the wind which leans its iron
Shoulders on our door. Neither
The purr of a cat nor my blood
Runs smoothly for elemental fear
Of the storm. This then is the big weather
They said was coming. All the signs
Were bad, the gulls coming in white,
Lapwings gathering, the sheep too
Calling all night. The gypsies
Were making their fires in the woods
Down there in the east…always
A warning. The rain stings, the whips
Of the laburnum hedge lash the roof
Of the cringing cottage. A curious
Calm, coming from the storm, unites
Us, as we wonder if the work
We have done will stand. Will the tyddyn,
In its group of strong trees on the high
Hill, hold against the storm Awst
Running across the hills where everything
Alive listens, pacing its house, heart still?
by Gillian Clarke
from The Sundial, (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)
Fun facts: Glossary: Welsh = English
Awst = August
Storm Awst = August storm
tyddyn = [farm] smallholding
Cars pass him by; he’ll never own one.
Men won’t believe in him for this.
Let them come into the hills
And meet him wandering a road,
Fenced with rain, as I have now;
The wind feathering his hair;
The sky’s ruins, gutted with fire
Of the late sun, smouldering still.
Nothing is his, neither the land
Nor the land’s flocks. Hired to live
On hills too lonely, sharing his hearth
With cats and hens, he has lost all
Property but the grey ice
Of a face splintered by life’s stone.
by R. S. Thomas
from Tares (1961)
It is a matter of a black cat
On a bare cliff top in March
Whose eyes anticipate
The gorse petals;
The formal equation of
A domestic purr
With the cold interiors
Of the sea’s mirror.
by R. S. Thomas
from Poetry for Supper (1958)