whole valleys-sides covered in berries
ripe and ready for the picking,
a steep rock-face with overgrown heather,
a flock of black sheep running
to be rounded up and sheared by the wind:
water with its roots in the sky.
the drizzly seeds of droplets sown,
the slanting sea-strewn westerlies
which turn clothing into blotting paper,
the aching storms which gravel
into bones, making you shrink and cower.
scooped and scoured out by laws,
people cleared away like shanty-dwellers
bossed by bulldozers, memories
left to night-writers, to bells
tolled by feeding streams and rivers,
to drought and dereliction exposed.
acid funnels of the conifers
press down soil to stop it slipping;
to trippers they seem like mirrors,
but they balance water on scales
tapping mountains for its wealth.
over the border, moving like a train
with trucks of coal, like iron and steel
liquid and molten, like the feet
of all those who had to leave
muttering ‘Money, money…’ forced
against the gradient, longing for sea.
a layer of aluminium the surface sheen,
the weight of lead its depths
and those substances meant to purify
unseen in a clear glass, lurking like radiation.
the old person whose grasp of time
runs through knotted fingers and down the drain,
children whose minds become stagnant;
families knowing when it’s cut off
water’s precious as air when they choke
on the stench of their own cack,
as germs breed with cockroaches and rats.
they’ve stolen the word, those safe-lock faces,
mispronounced it ‘Door’, reinforced and vaulted
below reservoirs where they’ve counted
profits from broken bones of village walls,
from a thirst which opens mouths
in fledging questions to the clouds.
By Mike Jenkins
from This Houses, My Ghetto
Additional information: Dŵr is the Welsh word for water. The line referring to it being mispronounced as ‘door’ regards a common mistake people make when first learning how to say it if unfamiliar with Welsh pronunciation. the elongated ‘oo’ sound of dŵr is ‘oohr’ not ‘or’. To approximate the pronunciation think of the word sounding like ‘dew-er’ but don’t stress the second syllable so it becomes ‘dewr’.
Since I’m speaking about Welsh pronunciation I might as well note how amusing it is to read in every Russian-English dictionary the explanation that the Cyrillic letter ‘Ч’ “… sounds like the ‘ch’ in the Scottish word ‘loch’…” since that sound exists in the Brythonic language of Welsh e.g. Chwarae (ch-wah-rye) which means ‘play’ as in the popular Welsh phrase ‘chwarae teg‘ (teg = ‘teh-guh’) meaning ‘fair play’.