Directions by R.S. Thomas

In this desert of language

we find ourselves in,

with the sign-post with the word ‘God’

worn away

and the distance… ?

 

Pity the simpleton

with his mouth open crying:

How far is it to God?

 

And the wiseacre says: Where you were,

friend.

You know the smile

glossy

as the machine that thinks it has outpaced

belief?

I am one of those

who sees from the arms opened

to embrace the future

the shadow of the Cross fall

on the smoothest of surfaces

causing me to stumble.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Between Here and Now (1981)

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Mouthy by Mike Jenkins

Sborin, sir!

We’re always doin racism.

It’s that or death, sir.

Yew’re morbid, yew are,

or gotta thing about the blacks.

 

But sir mun! Carn we do summin interestin

like Aids or watch a video o’ Neighbours?

Mrs Williams Media upstairs ave got em.

 

Oh no! Not another poem!

They’re always crap, rubbish

not enough action, don’ rhyme.

 

Yer, sir, this one’s got language in it!

It’s all about sex!

Yew’re bloody kinky yew are!

I’m gettin my Mam up yer.

 

Sir! We aven done work frages,

on’y chopsin in groups.

We ewsed t’do real English

when we woz younger,

exercises an fillin in gaps.

 

Sir mun! Don’ keep askin me

wha we should do,

yew’re the bloody teacher!

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Graffiti Narratives


Fun fact: The accent and inflections here are indicative of the Merthyr style of Welsh-English or ‘Wenglish’ dialect. Jenkins taught English at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff for nearly a decade and Penydre High School, Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil, for approximately two decades prior to that. At the end of the 2008–9 academic year Jenkins took voluntary redundancy. He now writes full-time capitalising on experiences gleaned from former pupils. An extract from one of Mike Jenkins’s poems has been used as part of the public realm regeneration of Merthyr Tydfil town centre.

Words Lying Empty, Without Breathing by Maria Petrovykh

Words lying empty, without breathing –

that don’t know why they exist at all.

Words with no goal, words with no meaning,

that shelter no one from the cold

and haven’t fed a single soul.

Words of impotence – of the weak!

Words that don’t dare, too shy to speak.

They give no heat, they shed no light,

but, with an orphan’s grief, go mute,

not knowing they are mutilated.

 

by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)

(1970s)

translated by Boris Dralyuk

Welsh Lanscape by R. S. Thomas

To live in Wales is to be conscious

At dusk of the spilled blood

That went to the making of the wild sky,

Dyeing the immaculate rivers

In all their courses.

It is to be aware,

Above the noisy tractor

And the hum of the machine

Of strife in the strung woods,

Vibrant with sped arrows.

You cannot live in the present,

At least not in Wales.

There is the language for instance,

The soft consonants

Strange to the ear.

There are cries in the dark at night

As owls answer the moon,

And thick ambush of shadows,

Hushed at the field’s corners.

There is no present in Wales,

And no future;

There is only the past,

Brittle with relics,

Wind-bitten towers and castles

With sham ghosts;

Mouldering quarries and mines;

And an impotent people,

Sick with inbreeding,

Worrying the carcase of an old song.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from An Acre of Land (1952)

Moithered by Mike Jenkins

She used it totally out of place

but natural as calling an infant ‘Babes!’

The poet’s moithered by all that pollution

like herself annoyed at my constant questions.

 

The word was her, chewing-gum twirler

giving so much lip and jip,

a desk-scribbler stirrer

using her tongue as a whip.

 

It was perfect for flustered:

I could imagine the artist

as all the complex phrases whirred

and churned, his hair in a twist.

 

No examiner could possibly weigh it,

no educationalist glue and frame it:

it leapt out like her laughter

and my red mark was the real error.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Red Landscapes

Sarn Rhiw by R. S. Thomas

So we know

she must have said something

to him – What language,

life? Oh, what language?

 

Thousands of years later

I inhabit a house

whose stone is the language

of its builders. Here

 

by the sea they said little.

But their message to the future

was: Build well. In the fire

of an evening I catch faces

 

staring at me. In April,

when light quickens and clouds

thin, boneless presences

flit through my room.

 

Will they inherit me

one day? What certainties

have I to hand on

like the punctuality

 

with which, at the moon’s

rising, the bay breaks

into a smile as though meaning

were not the difficulty at all?

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)

Merry Christmas in a few languages

English: Merry Christmas

Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

Russian: Счастливого Pождества! (с рождеством being the more informal version)

Japanese: メリークリスマス

Polish: Wesołych Świąt

Christmas time is not one for me. It is a time for children and those who have others to share it with. To me it is the days of film repeats and being told how I am not part of the greater society. I worked Christmas Eve so I had no ‘run up’ to the celebration and it will pass like an anomaly.

During the Victorian times, when many of the Christmas traditions were first created or at least solidified as Christmas specific traditions (tree, cards, stockings hanging, decorations, caroling, mistletoe, etc), it was common to tell ghost stories and go for a walk after the dinner. Hence why Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol featuring the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. I think going for a walk in the fresh air would be a good thing to bring back as it seems people just hole up in their houses for the next few days rather than enjoy the Winter weather.