Miracle On St David’s Day by Gillian Clarke

‘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 Clarke discussing and then reciting her poem ‘Miracle on St David’s Day’

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.

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This Winter That Will End by Margaret Lloyd

I have to admire the way your words

enduring and graceful create

just the right tone. Not giving

anything away but making it

clear you are enduring the necessity

of words for the sake of grace.

But are we talking about being polite

or are we talking about God?

In my mind I put your words

next to the old woman

whose knees and bare feet

froze to the ice on her own floor,

and was found days later repeating

‘Oh God, Oh God’ in Polish.

It was the officer’s opinion

this kept her alive. But was he

referring to speech or prayer?

If prayer, it was through

her continuous prayer, her prayer

was answered. Presuming, of course,

she wanted to stay alive. Often,

we don’t know what we want.

I fear this winter will end

and it will be too late. Too late

to remember our intentions, too late

to repeat what we never understood.

 

by Margaret Lloyd

There Was An Old Woman by Gregory Harrison

There was an old woman

Who used so much yeast,

She turned on her heel to get the tins greased

And the whole

Of the dough

Filled the bowl

And the table,

And fell to the floor

And crawled through the door

Past old Neddy’s stable,

And off down the street,

A multinous,

Glutinous,

Rubbery,

Blubbery,

River of sponge that stuck to your feet,

And got up your sleeve,

And, would you believe,

As it got thicker

Carried away the policeman and vicar.

They called the old woman

And she tried, the poor soul,

To claw it and pull it back into the bowl,

But grab at it, push at it, heave as she could

It just went on crawling;

It was really no good.

The dustman, the fireman, the WVS

Were all called to help to clean up the mess,

But in spite of their efforts it crawled up the hill,

And, as far as I know,

They’re cleaning up still.

 

by Gregory Harrison

Thoughts While Visiting Cardiff On A Quiet Saturday In February

Opticians are always young women. Where do they go afterwards? Optometry isn’t something you just study in order to go work somewhere for a few years then move onto another career… Do any men do optometry? Maybe it is just me and all I see are young women in this career? I went into a number of stores and passed by a few opticians and I saw no male staff.

John Lewis: More makeup means a woman looks like she has more of a jib… an attitude displayed by the jutting out of the lower lip in a defiant manner though there is nothing to challenge the in their immediate vacinity as they only go certain places, wih certain people so such a gesture is a display of a close minded individual indicating their prejudice to anyone who does not fit into their social caste. In hindsight maybe she was just a very confident shoplifter who made people around her think she was meant to be there unlike someone with a heavy coat and deep, opaque, bag wandering around with ‘eagle eyed action man’ darting glances observing their surroundings.

St Davids II Shopping Centre: Store workers are dressing very casually recently… no it would be more appropriate to say they are dressing stylishly but it is increasingly hard to tell who is or is not employed at the shop. I saw a girl with fake tan, platinum blonde hair and wearing a white dress with smudges of primary colours on it and only realised she worked in the shop when she started to handle stock by the arm full. One day someone walked up to me and asked me to help them as if I were a member of staff when I wasn’t. As much as I wanted to go along with it and lead them into purchasing the least appropriate item my morality stopped me and I informed them to go hence to the nearest optometrist and purchase a pair of corrective eye lens with which to better conduct themselves. Also to perform an act of masochistic onanism upon themselves post haste. I find shops are too casual nowadays.

Card Shop: I saw a card with a very funny phrase. I noted it down on my phone and will use it in due course. I suppose I could do that with any card that had a good idea. Especially those Hipster lookin gones where the image is a very basic doodle of a joke. Its all just a question of morality as I doubt the staff will walk up to you and ask what you are doing just assuming you are texting someone and it is none of their business.

Park Plaza: Privileged women enter the reception taking one of the few footstools for themselves across the room next to one of the open fires. The youngest looking one, face reddened by makeup and skin cleansers removing the top layer of dead skin fro her face, looks blankly ahead in doing this act. Hair crisply styled, grey hoodie, leather gilet and jeggings. All very expensive items no doubt but also very generic looking. Tall. Very, very, thin. Model, sickly, physique unfit to bear children without medical intervention. The caesarean scar no doubt would be a badge of honour for their motherhood being too posh to push’ unlike the common folk they view as cattle, worthy only being beasts of burden, to ensure their ongoing lives of luxuriating being sustainable. Her companions who did less look older due to makeup and what looked like dyed blond hair contrasted against black shawls hiding their physiques apart from tree trunk legs held in by calf high boots.

They read self-help books. They look the sort. On audiobook of course while they work out at the gym, if not running down the narrow country road holding up traffic, to ensure as many people as possible see them leading a ‘morally responsible’ healthy life as endorsed by social doctrine. It is the only tie sweat is allowed even if it means purchasing non-running makeup to wear especially for this act.

‘Own the space you inhabit’ – self-help books often state such a mantra but in practise it is an endorsement of acting in a sociopathic manner. It is a vicious circle in which the advice tells you to act like those who do not consider you and in turn you become such a person to someone else who themselves goes seeking advice only to be told to do the same and thus the ouroboros of societal behaviour perpetuates itself leading to a loss of humanity for the sake of perceiving one’s self as ‘alive’ according to the perceptions of others.

It’s a vicious circle. The polite etiquette the British are known for is gradually being eroded away and will be lost one day. Every generation fears this believing it will happen within their life time but although it is put aside as a foolish notion it is happening much in the way that even with beaches the coast is gradually eroding away gradually no matter how slowly it is perceived to be doing so. It can be padded and defended with certain concrete defensives but one day it will be irrevocably lost. What Henry James’ generation feared in ‘Daisy Miller’, where we adopt the brashness of American societies ever revolving need for conquest and self-empowerment, will finally come to pass.

In thinking that I am being unfair with this notion I dismiss it and go to the toilet.

There are three urinals against the wall. A man in the standard uniform of t-shirt and blue jeans of the casual relaxed yet casual smart man stands at the central urinal with his legs wide apart. ‘Own the space you inhabit’. He is breaching the understood social convention to use the furthest urinal and leave at least one urinal empty between users. In the scenario he should have taken the furthest and I the one furthest from him. But no instead he had all three to himself.

I go into the lone cubicle and do not hear the taps nor the hand drier, the latter being directly outside the cubicle, being operated so I have to assume he also left without cleaning his hands. Obviously he intends , like a feral dog, to smear his scent all over the place to mark his territory I suppose. The hand drier has that slow uncomfortable heat like the breathe of an old age pensioner invading your personal space speaking to you or hugging you in a deathlike grasp betraying their age.

Outside Walking from Queens Street towards the New Theatre: Along a wrought iron fence walks an old woman. Face like crumpled leather. Hair dyed gregarious ginger. Spindle legs hang out of a very heavy fur coat giving the impression she is in fact wearing a modifiyed gorilla costume. Danging out of the arms are her hands clad in red leather gloves and a cigarette hangs lazily from her right hand the smoke and ash drifting onto everyone behind her wake.

Two compatriots walk with her. They are of similar age in luminously sun-bleached yellow and pink padded coats respectively. They walk three abreast spaced just enough to give the impression you could wak past them but in approaching realising you do not in fact have enough space to do so. By which point the still warm ash has drifted onto any exposed skin burning you.

I thought I saw my English teacher from my first year of Secondary School. If so she hadn’t aged so it couldn’t be her. She always looked like the stereotype of what you would expect a young female literary student to look like. She had a doctorate when she taught me. Why would someone with a doctorate teach in a Comprehensive School? I didnt know then and I don’t know now.

Apparently there are only 500 ‘real’ people in the world and everyone else is just a bit player. However there are multiple coexisting dramatis personae consisting of 500 people all overlapping so it is not the cause of an existentialist crisis for anyone.


A few days away.

Nothing to say.

Here is a rambling number of notes.

I read too many things but Charles Bukowski and Daniil Kharms.

More to follow. What it is cannot be said… because I do not know.