A Winter Visit by Dannie Abse

Now she’s ninety I walk through the local park
where, too cold, the usual peacocks do not screech
and neighbouring lights come on before it’s dark.

Dare I affirm to her, so agèd and so frail,
that from one pale dot of peacock’s sperm
spring forth all the colours of a peacock’s tail?

I do. But she like the sibyl says, ‘I would die’;
then complains. ‘This winter I’m half dead, son.’
And because it’s true I want to cry.

Yet must not (although only Nothing keeps)
for I inhabit a white coat not a black
even here – and am not qualified to weep.

So I speak of small approximate things,
of how I saw, in the park, four flamingoes
standing, one-legged on ice, heads beneath wings.

.

By Dannie Abse
from Welsh Retrospective

(1997)

.

Interesting fact: Dannie Abse was born in Cardiff, Wales, to a Jewish family. He was the younger brother of politician and reformer Leo Abse and the eminent psychoanalyst, Wilfred Abse. Unusually for a middle-class Jewish boy, Dannie Abse attended St Illtyd’s College, a working-class Catholic school in Splott.

A Winter Convalescence by Dannie Abse

The coast shrugs, when the camera clicks,

deliberately. The cliffs blur,

and the sun’s mashed in the west.

.

It’s sac broken, its egg-mess sticks

on the winter sea, smears it.

The air develops ghosts of soot

that become more evident, minute by minute.

They’re clever. They have no shape.

Things hum.

.

Very few oblongs blaze

in the Grand Hotel.

God, how the promenade’s empty.

The pier’s empty too

but for the figure at the far end, shadowy,

hunched with a bending rod.

That one no taller than a thumb.

.

It’s strange the way people go smaller

the further they are away. Most of the time

you even forget who died.

But supposing things did not get smaller?

Best to go inside. Best to push

revolving doors to where it’s warmer,

where only a carpet makes you dizzy.

.

Inside, things hum.

Inside the insides the corridors wait.

A door opens, a hand comes out,

It’s cut off at the elbow,

it holds a pair of shoes

cut off at the ankles.

.

Walk faster. God, someone is breathing,

walk faster. Humankind

cannot bear very much unreality.

.

That’s right – lock this door, you clumsy…

Yet things still hum, things still hum.

Who blinks?

Who spies with his little eye

what no-one else has spied?

Best to pull the curtains on the night,

but then certain objects focus near:

the wardrobe with its narrow door,

the bible by the bedside.

.

Lie down, easy; lie down.

Who masturbated here?

Who whipped the ceiling? Cracked them?

Things hum.

Two blue, astringent eyes drag down their lids.

The dark comes from the lift-shaft.

.

.

By Dannie Abse

from A Small Desperation (1968)

.

Fun for readers: Which Grand Hotel is Abse speaking of in the poem? Answers in the comments.

Autumn Gold by William Hayles

Golden leaves beneath my feet,

Autumn winds through my hair,

Flowers fade in slow retreat,

Foxes sleeping in their lair.

.

Ashen skies of nimbus flocks,

Shrieking geese flee from the east,

Falling showers of icy drops,

Soaking land, man and beasts.

.

Short days fly from dawn to dusk,

Chill nights sheltered by crackling fire,

Cattle in byre, fed on husks,

Springs green pastures their desire.

.

Boughs of apples creak and groan,

Hazels hardening on the tree,

Fields of stubble, freshly mown,

Swallows gone beyond the seas.

.

Orion’s sword arm held on high,

His flashing belt diamond bright,

The autumn stars invade the sky,

And silvery moon lights up the night.

.

It’s chestnut roasting, marshmallow toasting,

Hot toddies and mulled ales downed,

In the hedgerow robins boasting,

Leafy carpet covers the ground.

.

Autumn, herald for the winter,

All brown and red burnished gold,

Time is passing like a sprinter,

Now the year is growing old.

.

.

By William Hayles

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

On The Farm by R. S. Thomas

There was Dai Puw. He was no good.
They put him in the fields to dock swedes,
And took the knife from him, when he came home
At late evening with a grin
Like the slash of a knife on his face.

There was Llew Puw, and he was no good.
Every evening after the ploughing
With the big tractor he would sit in his chair,
And stare into the tangled fire garden,
Opening his slow lips like a snail.

There was Huw Puw, too. What shall I say?
I have heard him whistling in the hedges
On and on, as though winter
Would never again leave those fields,
And all the trees were deformed.

And lastly there was the girl:
Beauty under some spell of the beast.
Her pale face was the lantern
By which they read in life's dark book
The shrill sentence: God is love.


by R. S. Thomas
from The Bread of Truth (1963)