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 liassiclimestone, shale and carboniferoussandstone/limestone as referenced by the Gillian Clarke in her poem.
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.
As far as I am concerned We are driving into oblivion. On either side there is nothing, And beyond your driving Shaft of light it is black. You are a miner digging For a future, a mineral Relationship in the dark. I can hear the darkness drip From the other world where people Might be sleeping, might be alive.
Certainly there are white Gates with churns waiting For morning, their cream standing. Once we saw an old table Standing square on the grass verge. Our lamps swept it clean, shook The crumbs into the hedge and left it. A tractor too, beside a load Of logs, bringing from a deeper Dark a damp whiff of the fungoid Sterility of the conifers.
Complacently I sit, swathed In sleepiness. A door shuts At the end of a dark corridor. Ahead not a cat's eye winks To deceive us with its green Invitation. As you hurl us Into the black contracting Chasm, I submit like a blind And folded baby, being born.
by Gillian Clarke from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)
I follow you downhill to the edge my feet taking as naturally as yours To a sideways tread, finding footholds Easily in the turf, accustomed As we are to a sloping country.
The cliffs buttress the bay's curve to the north And here drop sheer and sudden to the sea The choughs plummet from sight then ride The updraught of the cliff's mild yellow Light, fold, fall with closed wings for the sky.
At the last moment as in unison they turn A ripcord of the wind is pulled in time. He gives her food and the saliva Of his red mouth, draws her black feathers, sweet As shining grass across his bill.
Rare birds that pair for life. There they go Divebombing the marbled wave a yard Above the spray. Wings flick open A stoop away From the drawn teeth of the sea.
by Gillian Clarke from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer) (1978)
Additional information: While the chough‘s black plumage identifies it as a crow, the chough (pronounced ‘chuff’) has a red bill and legs unlike any other member of the crow family. It is restricted to the west of the British Isles.
It readily displays its mastery of flight with wonderful aerial displays of diving and swooping. This Schedule 1 species can be found in flocks in autumn and winter.
‘They flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude
from ‘The Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth
An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed with daffodils. The sun treads the path among cedars and enormous oaks. It might be a country house, guests strolling, the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.
I am reading poetry to the insane. An old woman, interrupting, offers as many buckets of coal as I need. A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic
on a good day, they tell me later. In a cage of first March sun a woman sits not listening, not feeling. In her neat clothes the woman is absent. A big, mild man is tenderly led
to his chair. He has never spoken. His labourer’s hands on his knees, he rocks gently to the rhythms of the poems. I read to their presences, absences, to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.
He is suddenly standing, silently, huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow movement of spring water or the first bird of the year in the breaking darkness, the labourer’s voice recites ‘The Daffodils’.
The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients seem to listen. He is hoarse but word-perfect. Outside the daffodils are still as wax, a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables unspoken, their creams and yellows still.
Forty years ago, in a Valleys school, the class recited poetry by rote. Since the dumbness of misery fell he has remembered there was a music of speech and that once he had something to say.
When he’s done, before the applause, we observe the flowers’ silence. A thrush sings and the daffodils are flame.
By Gillian Clarke from Letter from a Far Country (1982)
Gillian remarks on her site: “All you need to know about this poem is that it is a true story. It happened in the ’70s, and it took me years to find a way to write the poem.“