Scarped against the sky it rises it’s
Shadow bare of grass and gorse,
Barren are it’s granite ledges, worn
Fine through erosive force,
Shrouded in the firmament it’s peak
Lies cold and stark,
A tomb for scoria and fossils, from
An age that has left it’s mark.
Towering these weathering crags reign
Obscurely above the earth –
A lonely black mountain, sterile since
By Donald Sainsbury
The heels of the foetus knead
the stone's roundness out of shape,
downtreading flesh, distorting
the ellipses of the sphere.
It is unexpectedly
salty to touch, its texture
warmer, rougher, weightier
in my hand than I had thought.
Boisterous in its bone
cradle, a stone-breaker,
thief in its mother's orchard,
it is apple-round.
Here the navel
knots it from its chalk down;
there the pressure as the embryo
kicks against ribcage and hip.
The cicatrice of a flower
is printed on one of its
curved surfaces. I carry it
as I walk Glamorgan beaches,
a warm, strange thing to worry
with my fingers. The fossil locked
in its belly stirs, a tender
fresh upheaval of the stone.
by Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (Gwasg Gomer, 1982)
Additional information: Since I am from the Glamorgan area I can recommend our shoreline with it’s cliffs formed of a combination of liassic limestone, shale and carboniferous sandstone/limestone as referenced by the Gillian Clarke in her poem.
There are many beaches along the coast but I can especially recommend, for anyone thinking of visiting the area, Ogmore Beach which is near the ruins of Ogmore Castle and the impressive Merthyr Mawr sand dunes.
However it’s very likely Gillian was referring to another beach along the Glamorgan coastline. Possibly, due to the reference to a fossilised foetus in the poem, it was St Donats Beach she was referring to as that is famed for having a number of fossils. If you do visit to look at the fossils please don’t take them.