Match My Moments by R. S. Thomas

That time
the soldier broke in
to my room and I,
the sword at my throat,
looked up from my sums
and theorems and smiling
said: Spare my designs.

That time
in the rusting bracken
the road ran with sheep,
a woollen river but vocal,
saying in its raw baritone
to the man on its banks:
We give our life for the shepherd.

That time
the queue winding towards
the gas chambers, and the nun,
who had already died
to this world, to the girl
in tears: Don’t cry. Look,
I will take your place.

That time
after the night’s frost the tree
weeping, the miser in me
complaining: Why all this washing
the earth’s feet in gold? And I,
my finger at my lips: Because
it is what we are made of.

by R. S. Thomas
from Mass for Hard Times (1992)

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All Souls’ Night by Gillian Clarke

Wind after rain. The lane
is beaten lead. Nothing

is any colour. Hedges
are scribbles of darkness.

Not a cow or sheep in grey fields.
Rain sings in the culverts,

slides the gate-bars, brambles and grasses,
glints in tyre-ruts and hoof-prints.

Only the springer’s fur flowers white,
will o’ the wisp under a gate

across a field short-sightedly
reading the script of the fox.

A sudden wheel of starlings turns
the hill’s corner, their wings a whish

of air, the darkening sound
of a shadow crossing land.

At a touch my bare ash tree rings,
leafed, shaken,

the stopper of ice dissolved
in each bird-throat,

the frozen ash
become a burning bush.

by Gillian Clarke

Additional information: All Souls’ Day, also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed and the Day of the Dead, is a day of prayer and remembrance for the faithful departed, which is observed by Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations annually on 2 November.

Examples of regional customs include leaving cakes for departed loved ones on the table and keeping the room warm for their comfort in Tirol and the custom in Brittany, where people flock to the cemeteries at nightfall to kneel, bareheaded, at the graves of their loved ones and anoint the hollow of the tombstone with holy water or to pour libations of milk on it. At bedtime, supper is left on the table for the souls.

Storm Awst by Gillian Clarke

The cat walks. It listens, as I do,

To the wind which leans its iron

Shoulders on our door. Neither

The purr of a cat nor my blood

Runs smoothly for elemental fear

Of the storm. This then is the big weather

They said was coming. All the signs

Were bad, the gulls coming in white,

Lapwings gathering, the sheep too

Calling all night. The gypsies

Were making their fires in the woods

Down there in the east…always

A warning. The rain stings, the whips

Of the laburnum hedge lash the roof

Of the cringing cottage. A curious

Calm, coming from the storm, unites

Us, as we wonder if the work

We have done will stand. Will the tyddyn,

In its group of strong trees on the high

Hill, hold against the storm Awst

Running across the hills where everything

Alive listens, pacing its house, heart still?

 

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial, (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)


Fun facts:  Glossary: Welsh = English

Awst = August

Storm Awst = August storm

tyddyn = [farm] smallholding