This is pain's landscape.
A savage agriculture is practised
Here; every farm has its
Grandfather or grandmother, gnarled hands
On the cheque-book, a long, slow
Pull on the placenta about the neck.
Old lips monopolise the talk
When a friend calls. The children listen
From the kitchen; the children march
With angry patience against the dawn.
They are waiting for someone to die
Whose name is as bitter as the soil
They handle. In clear pools
In the furrows they watch themselves grow old
To the terrible accompaniment of the song
Of the blackbird, that promises them love.
By R.S. Thomas
from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)
She dips her bill in the rim of the sea.
Her beak is the ellipse
of a world much smaller
than that far section of the sea’s
circumference. A curve enough to calculate
the field’s circle and its heart
of eggs in the cold grass.
All day while I scythed my territory
out of nettles, laid claim to my cantref,
she has cut her share of sky. Her song bubbles
long as a plane trail from her savage mouth.
I clean the blade with newspaper. Dusk blurs
circle within circle till there’s nothing left
but the egg pulsing in the dark against her ribs.
For each of us the possessed space contracts
to the nest’s heat, the blood’s small cicuit.
by Gillian Clarke
from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)
Fun fact: A cantref was a medieval Welsh land division, particularly important in the administration of Welsh law.