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

Always the Ocean by Mike Jenkins

For those us born by the ocean

there will always be a listening,

an ear close to the ground

like an animal trailing.

.

I remember one night

I couldn’t see anything of water

and I was sober as the stars,

yet below the tracked paving-stones

and gushing up through cracks…

benches tilted, clouds rocked.

I was a vessel, filled full of it.

.

This town at the valley’s head

I’ve adopted or it’s adopted me:

wakes fan from the simple phrases

and often laughter can erode

the most resistant expressions.

Despite this, I’m following the river

along our mutual courses:

.

to the boy on a storm-beach

hopping from boulder to boulder

trying to mimic a mountain-goat;

to the young man sitting in a ring

of perfumed smoke of dolphins

plucked by the sleight-fingered sea.

.

.

By Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto

Blaen Cwrt by Gillian Clarke

You ask how it is. I will tell you.

There is no glass. The air spins in

The stone rectangle. We warm our hands

With apple wood. Some of the smoke

Rises against the ploughed, brown field

As a sign to our neighbours in the

Four folds of the valley that we are in.

Some of the smoke seeps through the stones

Into the barn where it curls like fern

On the walls. Holding a thick root

I press my bucket through the surface

Of the water, lift it brimming and skim

The leaves away. Our fingers curl on

Enamel mugs of tea, like ploughmen.

The stones clear in the rain

Giving their colours. It’s not easy.

There are no brochure blues or boiled sweet

Reds. All is ochre and earth and cloud-green

Nettles tasting sour and the smells of moist

Earth and sheep’s wool. The wattle and daub

Chimney hood has decayed away, slowly

Creeping to dust, chalking the slate

Floor with stories. It has all the first

Necessities for a high standard

Of civilised living: silence inside

A circle of sound, water and fire,

Light on uncountable miles of mountain

From a big, unpredictable sky,

Two rooms, waking and sleeping,

Two languages, two centuries of past

To ponder on, and the basic need

To work hard in order to survive.

.

By Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer) 1978

.

Additional information:

When her children were young, Clarke bought and renovated an old, ruined small holding called Blaen Cwrt in Talgarreg, south Ceredigion, where she now lives, and which she often figures as her poetic ‘milltir sgwâr’ (square mile). […] Reminiscing on that time and that house as formative to the emergence of her poetic voice, Clarke recalls that ‘to “work hard” meant more than one thing. It’s both chopping wood, carrying water, and writing about it.’

Dr Siriol McAvoy, Gillian Clarke: My Box (A help-sheet for teachers) CREW: Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales, Swansea University, August 2018

Threshold by R S Thomas

I emerge from the mind’s

cave into the worse darkness

outside, where things pass and

the Lord is in none of them.

.

I have heard the still, small voice

and it was that of the bacteria

demolishing my cosmos. I

have lingered too long on

.

this threshold, but where can I go?

To look back is to lose the soul

I was leading upward towards

the light. To look forward? Ah,

.

what balance is needed at

the edges of such an abyss.

I am alone on the surface

of a turning planet. What

.

to do but, like Michelangelo’s

Adam, put my hand

out into unknown space,

hoping for the reciprocating touch?

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Later Poems (1983)

From A Suburban Window by Dannie Abse

Such afternoon glooms, such clouds chimney low –
London, the clouds want to move but can not,
London, the clouds want to rain but can not –
such negatives of a featureless day:
the street empty but for a van passing,
an afternoon smudged by old afternoons.
Soon, despite railings, evening will come
from a great distance trailing evenings.
Meantime, unemployed sadness loiters here.

Quite suddenly, six mourners appear:
a couple together, then three stout men,
then one more, lagging behind, bare-headed.
Not one of them touches the railings.
They walk on and on remembering days,
yet seem content. They employ the décor.
They use this grey inch of eternity,
and the afternoon, so praised, grows distinct.

by Dannie Abse
from A Small Desperation (1968)

Carol by R. S. Thomas

What is Christmas without
snow? We need it
as bread of a cold
climate, ermine to trim

our sins with, a brief
sleeve for charity’s
scarecrow to wear its heart
on, bold as a robin.

by R. S. Thomas
from Later Poems
(1983)