Psychodahlia by Mike Jenkins

Down in the darkest corridors of municipalia

is where the seed must’ve come from,

nurtured no doubt by a quirky computer

about the time of the Garden Festival.

.

It was to be Merthyr’s own shrub:

a plant ideally suited to the area,

only needing to be oiled every ten years,

never losing its metallic beetroot colour.

.

‘What should we call it?’

discussed the Parks committee:

‘Mini triffid?’ ‘Spike drunkard?’

‘ow about an ever ‘ard?’

.

Without realising their irony,

because a stalwart councillor, after too many beers,

slipped on his way to a spaghetti

and skewered himself on the castiron cactus!

.

‘DESTROY KILLER PLANTS!’ screamed the local press,

but law and order merchants were impressed

by its vicious leaves and bought thousands

to surround the Civic Centre, school and institutions.

.

Soon the forked flora had spread everywhere

threatening the soles of stray vandals,

so the Council named it ‘Psychodahlia’

and the computer was made into mayor.

.

.

by Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto

Additional information: Mike Jenkins (born 1953) is a Welsh poet, story writer and novelist writing in English. He taught English at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff for nearly a decade and Penydre High School, Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil, for some two decades before that. At the end of the 2008–2009 academic year Jenkins took voluntary redundancy. He now writes full-time, capitalising on experiences gleaned from former pupils. He continues to live in Merthyr Tydfil, and has done so for over 30 years. He is also the father of Plaid Cymru politician Bethan Sayed née Jenkins MS and journalist Ciaran Jenkins.

Always the Ocean by Mike Jenkins

For those us born by the ocean

there will always be a listening,

an ear close to the ground

like an animal trailing.

.

I remember one night

I couldn’t see anything of water

and I was sober as the stars,

yet below the tracked paving-stones

and gushing up through cracks…

benches tilted, clouds rocked.

I was a vessel, filled full of it.

.

This town at the valley’s head

I’ve adopted or it’s adopted me:

wakes fan from the simple phrases

and often laughter can erode

the most resistant expressions.

Despite this, I’m following the river

along our mutual courses:

.

to the boy on a storm-beach

hopping from boulder to boulder

trying to mimic a mountain-goat;

to the young man sitting in a ring

of perfumed smoke of dolphins

plucked by the sleight-fingered sea.

.

.

By Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto

Diver-Bird by Mike Jenkins

People sat up from skin-baking or shade-seeking,
children on flabby lilos stopped squall-splashing:
not a pointy snorkeller, but a diver-bird.
'Duck!' someone called, as he dipped
and disappeared underwater, emerging
liquid minutes later as no human could.
'Guillemot' I said assured, chuckling.
 
Grey-black, shiny as wet seaweed
his head intent for rush of a shoal,
no periscope or radar could equal
that vision: beak needling fish
leading a feathery thread up and down.
I tried to swim out, follow him,
make clicking noises to draw his attention:
he ignored my performance.
 
Returning home, in reference books,
I realised 'guillemot' was just as absurd.
He was elusive here as he'd been  
in the bay, no silhouette fitting.
Yet I knew he'd keep re-surfacing
further and further away, stitching
more firmly because I couldn't find a name.
 
 
by Mike Jenkins
from This House, My Ghetto 

Additional information: Here are some fun facts about the guillemot.

A Heron Flies Overhead by Mike Jenkins

In the scatterings of the year
the clothes will not take flight,
twigs and leaves do not stir
and the moor fades out of sight.

A tree-creeper scurries against gravity,
two jays are flowers of the air,
the geese snake water thirstily,
magpies are always asking 'Where?'

A heron flies overhead with calm
and rhythmic pulsing of the wings,
towards the west it charms
my senses with its rare passing.

It seems now like a prophecy:
what will happen when streams have gone?
Diggers will treat the mountain ruthlessly,
fumes and dust consume the songs.


by Mike Jenkins
from Red Landscapes

Additional information: Mike Jenkins (born 1953) is a Welsh poet, story writer and novelist writing in English. He taught English at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff for nearly a decade and Penydre High School, Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil, for some two decades before that. At the end of the 2008–2009 academic year Jenkins took voluntary redundancy. He now writes full-time, capitalising on experiences gleaned from former pupils. He continues to live in Merthyr Tydfil, and has done so for over 30 years. He is also the father of Plaid Cymru politician Bethan Jenkins and journalist Ciaran Jenkins.

Laughter Tangled In Thorn by Mike Jenkins

Dressed like a child
for our ritual Sunday afternoon
pilgrimage to the hillside:
your pear-shaped hood,
scarf wound like a snake
and red ski-boots dragged along
like grown-up things worn for a dare.

When I laugh, I don't mean it to hurt.
It is the brother of the laugh
at the end of our laugh-making -
rigid bones melting into blood.

The moor grass has turned
into a frosty yellow, its green
gone deep into hibernation.
We crunch mud, step streams,
in games which strip us of years
like the trees have been
of their leaves. The water
and your green eyes
share the only motion.

You see a red berry
and call it a ladybird.
I think of your city upbringing;
the seasons being passing strangers
through Belfast streets
where you cadged rides from the ice.

When the brook's chatter is snow-fed,
your laughter is tangled in thorn.
You discover an ice sculpture
mounted on a spine of reed,
and call it 'Teeth and Jaws'.
The light of your words
travels through it.

High above Merthyr, mountain lapping mountain.
You are amazed at the rarified sunlight!
When you speak, the numb streets
are startled. We leave the childhood
of the moorland, to grow taller
with a tiredness which is the sister
of when we lie, translucent and still,
on the single spine of the bed.

by Mike Jenkins
from Empire of Smoke

Additional information: Mike Jenkins (born 1953) is a Welsh poet, story writer and novelist writing in English. He taught English at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff for nearly a decade and Penydre High School, Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil, for some two decades before that. At the end of the 2008–2009 academic year Jenkins took voluntary redundancy. He now writes full-time, capitalising on experiences gleaned from former pupils. He continues to live in Merthyr Tydfil, and has done so for over 30 years. He is also the father of Plaid Cymru politician Bethan Jenkins and journalist Ciaran Jenkins.