You ask how it is. I will tell you.
There is no glass. The air spins in
The stone rectangle. We warm our hands
With apple wood. Some of the smoke
Rises against the ploughed, brown field
As a sign to our neighbours in the
Four folds of the valley that we are in.
Some of the smoke seeps through the stones
Into the barn where it curls like fern
On the walls. Holding a thick root
I press my bucket through the surface
Of the water, lift it brimming and skim
The leaves away. Our fingers curl on
Enamel mugs of tea, like ploughmen.
The stones clear in the rain
Giving their colours. It’s not easy.
There are no brochure blues or boiled sweet
Reds. All is ochre and earth and cloud-green
Nettles tasting sour and the smells of moist
Earth and sheep’s wool. The wattle and daub
Chimney hood has decayed away, slowly
Creeping to dust, chalking the slate
Floor with stories. It has all the first
Necessities for a high standard
Of civilised living: silence inside
A circle of sound, water and fire,
Light on uncountable miles of mountain
From a big, unpredictable sky,
Two rooms, waking and sleeping,
Two languages, two centuries of past
To ponder on, and the basic need
To work hard in order to survive.
By Gillian Clarke
from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer) 1978
When her children were young, Clarke bought and renovated an old, ruined small holding called Blaen Cwrt in Talgarreg, south Ceredigion, where she now lives, and which she often figures as her poetic ‘milltir sgwâr’ (square mile). […] Reminiscing on that time and that house as formative to the emergence of her poetic voice, Clarke recalls that ‘to “work hard” meant more than one thing. It’s both chopping wood, carrying water, and writing about it.’Dr Siriol McAvoy, Gillian Clarke: My Box (A help-sheet for teachers) CREW: Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales, Swansea University, August 2018