She dips her bill in the rim of the sea.
Her beak is the ellipse
of a world much smaller
than that far section of the sea’s
circumference. A curve enough to calculate
the field’s circle and its heart
of eggs in the cold grass.
All day while I scythed my territory
out of nettles, laid claim to my cantref,
she has cut her share of sky. Her song bubbles
long as a plane trail from her savage mouth.
I clean the blade with newspaper. Dusk blurs
circle within circle till there’s nothing left
but the egg pulsing in the dark against her ribs.
For each of us the possessed space contracts
to the nest’s heat, the blood’s small cicuit.
by Gillian Clarke
from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)
Fun fact: A cantref was a medieval Welsh land division, particularly important in the administration of Welsh law.
O make me a mask and a wall to shut from your spies
Of the sharp, enamelled eyes and the spectacled claws
Rape and rebellion in the nurseries of the face,
Gag of a dumbstruck tree to block from bare enemies
The bayonet tongue in this undefended prayerpiece,
The present mouth, and the sweetly blown trumpet of lies,
Shaped in old armour and oak the counternance of a dunce
To shield the glistening brain and blunt the examiners,
And a tear-stained widower grief drooped from the lashes
To veil belladonna and let the dry eyes perceive
Others betray the lamenting lies of their losses
By the curve of the nude mouth or the laugh up the sleeve.
by Dylan Thomas
(Notebook version March 1933; rephrased and severely shortened November 1937)
He seeks to defend his inner privacy against the sharp examination of strangers and critics.