Cuckoo by Dic Edwards

Again the soldiers fill the valley.
Driven by necessity
The men forge cannon
And the women spin cloth for uniforms in their parlours
Soon, the snowdrops.
Young wives weave boots from palmetto fronds
And aunts save their piss
For the nitre that makes
All the sloshing about in tears
And furnishes the men in war.

Soon, the primrose.
The children in the little games
Have nothing to say of war
But die.
The older girls knit socks for the dying.
The young men cut up the bodies playfully
Notwithstanding history’s immanence
And not yet fearful of the waking
From their drunk and bloody spell.

Soon, the cuckoo
And the cuckoo-flower;
Cuckoo-pint:
Arum and wake-robin
And navelwort and pennywort
And all the crazy flowering
Of even the monocotyledonous plants.
And in the lacunae between horrors
Much is fulfilled as the comedian entertains
And flaps the colours of war hanging
From rope made of Spanish moss.

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By Dic Edwards

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Information: Dic Edwards (born 1948) is a British playwright, poet and teacher of creative writing. His writing often touches upon political and social issues, nationalism and democracy.

Harvest at Mynachlog by Gillian Clarke

At last the women come with baskets,
The older one in flowered apron,
A daisied cloth covering the bread
And dappled china, sweet tea
In a vast can. The women stoop
Spreading their cups in the clover.

The engines stop. A buzzard watches
From the fence. We bury our wounds
In the deep grass: sunburnt shoulders,
Bodies scratched with straw, wrists bruised
From the weight of the bales, blood beating.

For hours the baler has been moulding
Golden bricks from the spread straw,
Spewing them at random in the stubble.
I followed the slow load, heaved each
Hot burden, feeling the sun contained.

And unseen over me a man leaned,
Taking the weight to make the toppling
Load. Then the women came, friendly
And cool as patches of flowers at the far
Field edge, mothy and blurred in the heat.

We are soon recovered and roll over
In the grass to take our tea. We talk
Of other harvests. They remember
How a boy, flying his plane so low
Over the cut fields that his father

Straightened from his work to wave his hat
At the boasting sky, died minutes later
On an English cliff, in such a year
As this, the barns brimming gold.

We are quiet again, holding our cups
In turn for the tilting milk, sad, hearing
The sun roar like a rush of grain
Engulfing all winged things that live
One moment in the eclipsing light.

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by Gillian Clarke
from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)

A recital of the poem by Heather Plow

Information:Mynachlog’ means ‘monastery’ in Welsh. The subject of the poem is most likely a Grade II Listed farm house building in Northop, Flintshire.

For a line by line analysis of the poem there is a teacher’s help sheet created by Lizzie Fincham for Swansea University’s CREW.

A Leave-Taking by William Phylip

Goodbye, the secret of the song, the brilliant right-order,
Goodbye Hendre Fechan,
And the song-books, bright pure song,
To you, goodbye now also.

I’d a house to sleep, to live I’d shelter,
Food and drink suffice me;
I’d a home till I were dead,
And a fire (thank God!) kept burning.

In place of my old homestead, and the woe
Here, of an early life,
In heaven God will give me now
A home where’s no returning.

Green woods, farewell, where the small birds sang
A choice, correct, sweet song;
Farewell, all the song-chained groves,
Each path where song would wander.

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By William Phylip
d. 1670

translated by Tony Conran

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Information: The title is technically ‘A Leave-Taking of Hendre Fechan, his home‘. There is a holiday cottage, in Tal-y-bont, dating back to 1616 with the name Hendre Fechan. I can’t confirm if it is the same location alluded to in the poem but it is very coincidental if not.

‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’ by Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

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By Dylan Thomas
(1934)
from 18 Poems

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Additional information: ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’ is the poem that made Dylan Thomas famous. Written in 1933, when Thomas was nineteen, it was first published in his 1934 collection, 18 Poems. Like the other poems in the collection, which belong to what has been called Thomas’s ‘womb-tomb period‘, it deals with “creation, both physical and poetic, and the temporal process of birth, death, and rebirth“.

A recorded recital of the poem by Dylan Thomas himself.
Richard Burton reciting the poem.

Woman on Wheels by Mike Jenkins

Don’t look down on me!
I’m a remarkable invention:
half-vehicle and half-human!

Don’t joke about such things?
Well, what is there left?
God’s deserted me,
or I’ve ignored him…
whatever, it’s neither blame nor salvation.

Don’t look away or speak slowly,
I only grin stupidly
when I’ve taken too much gin.

Later, in the morning,
messages from my brain
jam in my throat.
My spine’s a street
I can only walk in sleep
or in those photos once placed
in a case too high to reach.

Running on smoke not steam,
I become the mechanic
as I take my leg from the cupboard
to put on as you would make-up.
I prefer to numb myself
in poison-clouds of my making,
rather than face a sun
shining like instruments of operation.

You think I’m not like you?
It’s true the world is full
of stairs and people climbing,
while I remain below
locked into pavement, gazing
as the building saunters away.
Yet I know some who are paralysed within,
so all they’ve achieved
becomes a throbbing, an ache
from a lost limb.

By Mike Jenkins
from A Dissident Voice