Offa’s Dyke

The ancient mystery
of whether Offa built the Dyke
to keep the Welsh out
or the Mercians in
remains buried in the earth

but as she crossed it,
clutching the roughly hewn heart
that had been dragged
from the caverns of Llechwedd,
she felt a shift beneath her.

Placing it in his open palm,
not a gift as such,
more a scrap of trust
passing between them,
she realized

that this imprint,
this linear earthwork
that now lay within her
would remain unchanged
for centuries.



~ Offa’s Dyke is a massive earth ditch that runs roughly along parts of the Welsh/English border. It is believed to have been built in the 9th century by Offa, King of Mercia, as some kind of delineation between the Anglian kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys. It is thought to have been defensive, as well as being a political statement of power and intent.

Slate mining began in Wales during the Roman period and continued on a large scale until the 1930s when it began to decline. There are a few quarries which still produce slate, Lechwedd being one of them. The slate from these quarries is stunning and varies in colour depending on the quarry, purple slate from Penrhyn, blue from Cwt-y-Bugail, green from Nantlle, grey from Llechwedd, and black from Corris.




Filed under Free Verse, Poetry

6 responses to “Offa’s Dyke

  1. when the heart is torn there are some things that remain solid and lasting…and that surely was a profound moment in the understanding….nice one…

  2. Wonderful write with some facts I never knew too. Solid as a rock sometimes one has to be.

  3. I like the way you make the unknown relationship between the Mercians and Welsh a metaphor for you relationship….or at least that’s one of the things I read into this. I also find the ancient mysteries of earthworks and landscape inspiring and evocative.

  4. I love it when you excavate these grand histories from your local soil and soul, Carys — the love song is just as as old, don’t you think, as those earthworks? In eastern Pennsylvania where my father lives there are slate mines that were worked by Welshman in the 19th century, so many of the local towns have Welsh names like Penn Argyll and Pencoyd and Bryn Mawr. And slate does sometimes break into heart-shaped patterns, more often half-heart-shapes, like a token or symbolon that two share from far away. Fine poem. – Brendan

  5. ‘a scrap of trust’… such tentative hope. I love the restraint of this Julie..and, as ever, a wondrous Welsh metaphor.

  6. Gay

    Oh if only the Welsh had spoken to me thus instead of turning me back to England. I saw the North though it was through fog on the narrow gauge train leaving from Porthamadog going to Caernarfon up to Holyhead. But none of Cardiff did I see except a train station with no one to help me. I understand why the Welsh may have broken hearts. I believe they may have unchanged hearts for centuries and they deduced I was as Irish by generations as they were Welsh. Lovely poem!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s