The Houses of the Valleys by Ann Hughes

Reaching out in unending lines

Houses of the valleys, all the same

In their uniform of dereliction and decay

Clinging on to the hillside, like old people

Clinging on to the old way of life.

.

Smoke rises from the chimneys

Catching the last fading sunlight

of the promising summer of plenty,

Falling soon to the sills in black sooty smuts

Where sometimes people sit and stare.

.

The empty streets echo in the silence

of tack boots on the cobblestones,

Black windows stare at me with accusation

Betrayal screams at you with her evidence

in the houses of the valleys.

.

.

By Ann Hughes (1992)

Healing by R. S. Thomas

Sick wards. The sailed beds

becalmed. The nurses tack

hither and fro. The chloroform

breeze rises and falls.

Hospitals are their own

weather. The temperatures

have no relation

to the world outside. The surgeons,

those cunning masters

of navigation, follow

their scalpels’ compass through

hurricanes of pain to a calm

harbour. Somewhere far down

in the patient’s darkness,

where faith died, like a graft

or a transplant prayer

get to work, repairing

the soul’s tissue, leading

the astonishing self between

twin pillars, where life’s angels

stand wielding their bright swords of flame.

.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Mass for Hard Times

(1992)

Alive by R. S. Thomas

It is alive. It is you,

God. Looking out I can see,

no death. The earth moves, the

sea moves, the wind goes

on its exuberant

journeys. Many creatures

reflect you, the flowers

your colour, the tides the precision

of your calculations. There

is nothing too ample

for you to overflow, nothing

so small that your workmanship

is not revealed. I listen

and it is you speaking.

I find the place where you lay

warm. At night, if I waken,

there are the sleepless conurbations

of the stars. The darkness

is the deepening shadow

of your presence; the silence a

process in the metabolism

of the being of love.

.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Laboratories of the Spirit

(1975)

Where Cars Cannot Come by Cyril Jones

Where cars cannot come

Is where I would go;

Away from the drum

Of their cyclic agenda

So you cannot remember

The vision you know.

.

I walk off the highways

And into the lanes;

To recall the memories

With wind my companion

With sun as my champion

To listen to all, of natures refrains.

.

The rustle of long grass,

The wild whining trees,

A tune, on the edge of glass

Strikes the first chord,

A bloodthirsty sword.

To deep in the wood now, for any reprieve.

.

A flash of the sun

On the edge of the water,

Like the startling fun

Contained in her smile

And roasted by guile

I saw, Neptunes daughter.

.

I cannot go on now,

Where cars cannot come,

But I renew the vow

To do what is needed

And quietly unheeded

I take out the gun.

.

For of all that is troubling me

This now is the sum,

That a sound greater, considerably,

Reside in this lane

And nothing exists, to blot out it’s pain;

Where cars cannot come,

… Is my heart

… Is my brain.

.

.

By Cyril Jones

When the Mist Clears by Donna Menadue

A mass of clinging entrapment

graces the drifting storm

in a conspiracy of eeriness

on a cloudy day.

Frozen faces upturned to the waves;

voyagers threadbare

discussing ways and means;

bold an evil drifting on the tide,

It is rumoured in these parts

that gold-heavy galleons

vanish in the sun

when the mist clears.

.

.

By Donna Menadue

The Black Mountain by Donald Sainsbury

Scarped against the sky it rises it’s

Shadow bare of grass and gorse,

Barren are it’s granite ledges, worn

Fine through erosive force,

Shrouded in the firmament it’s peak

Lies cold and stark,

A tomb for scoria and fossils, from

An age that has left it’s mark.

Towering these weathering crags reign

Obscurely above the earth –

A lonely black mountain, sterile since

It’s birth.

.

.

By Donald Sainsbury

Death of a Young Woman by Gillian Clarke

She died on a hot day. In a way

Nothing was different. The stretched white

Sheet of her skin tightened no further.

She was fragile as a yacht before,

Floating so still on the blue day’s length,

That one would not know when the breath

Blew out and the sail finally slackened.

Her eyes had looked opaquely in the

Wrong place to find those who smiled

From the bedside, and for a long time

Our conversations were silent.

The difference was that in her house

The people were broken by her loss.

He wept for her and for the hard tasks

He had lovingly done, for the short,

Fierce life she had lived in the white bed,

For the burden he had put down for good.

As we sat huddled in pubs supporting

Him with beer and words’ warm breath,

We felt the hollowness of his release.

Our own ungrateful health prowled, young,

Gauche about her death. He was polite,

Isolated. Free. No point in going home.

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer) (1978)

Sailors’ Hospital by R. S. Thomas

It was warm

Inside, but there was

Pain there, I came out

Into the cold wind

Of April. There were birds

In the brambles’ old,

Jagged iron, with one striking

Its small song. To the west,

Rising from the grey

Water, leaning one

On another were the town’s

Houses. Who first began

That refuse: time’s waste

Growing at the edge

Of the clean sea? Some sailor,

Fetching up on the

Shingle before wind

Or current, made it his

Harbour, hung up his clothes

In the sunlight; found women

To breed from – those sick men

His descendants. Every day

Regularly the tide

Visits them with its salt

Comfort; their wounds are shrill

In the rigging of the

Tall ships.

With clenched thoughts,

That not even the sky’s

Daffodil could persuade

To open, I turned back

To the nurses in their tugging

At him, as he drifted

Away on the current

Of his breath, further and further,

Out of hail of our love.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)

Life is it a Waste? By Wendy Tina Jones

Man’s life is like a cloud that fades and is gone,

Man dies and never returns,

Forgotten by all who knew him,

So he continually strives to make his mark whilst he is on this Earth,

So that he will be remembered in centuries to come,

Defaming people as he strives for success,

Foolishly gathering riches that he cannot take with him,

We were born as nothing,

And we will die as nothing.

.

By Wendy Tina Jones

A Welsh Spring by Vic Rees

That day,

slate skies still gloomed

the slanting fields,

but timid pink smiled faintly

between the clouds.

.

Grave sheep,

catched to the hill’s green cant,

stirred in the mellowing air,

and misty pastures corsetted

by cattle-keeping walls,

appeared to meditate

upon their coming colours.

.

Deep in the valley’s throat

a tipsy tractor undulated,

loudly blue, defiant

against the earth’s brown quiet.

.

Suddenly,

a whirr of pigeons

in arrowed flight,

climbed then dived

into the valley’s side,

melting in the solvency of trees

like the easing of a pain.

.

Rubber-shod

I trod the meadow’s ooze,

feeling the muscling turf

beneath my feet; then,

welcoming the simplifying air,

I took my first firm step

from the winter of your going.

.

.

by Vic Rees