Inspired by Owen Sheers’ book Calon: A Journey to the Heart of Welsh Rugby
this carmine closed fist
caged in bleached-bone
strong, pear-like pump
and yet succumbs
to the quick tear
the soft bruise
the bladed scrape
patched and pinned
to an aching chest
of arrhythmic pulse
steadying once more
Soft metronomic muscle caught
on snag-toothed grin of gristled moon,
faint wishbone whistle, picayune,
long-stemmed laments from thorns are wrought.
Wet roses wilt amid the silt
of sodden land that sorrow bought.
As footings rot on runes rough-hewn,
soft metronomic muscle caught.
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,
that this imprint,
this linear earthwork
that now lay within her
would remain unchanged
~ 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.
It seems I have been a little careless
with one of my internal organs.
I haven’t mislaid it or anything;
I didn’t leave it on the bus –
the one I always caught straight from work
to spend a few precious hours
‘playing away’ before returning home
to drown in domesticity.
If I’d left it on the number 27 to Barnes
it probably would have been picked up
and pocketed by the sleazy guy who always
sat opposite, sneaking sly glances
at my stockinged legs
over the top of his newspaper
or perhaps it would have been
into a shiny briefcase, to be sold
on the black market for a handsome price
by one of the sharp suited city boys
down on his luck.
No, instead, I gave it away without a thought –
piece by tiny precious piece;
little bloody scraps caught on
the thorny stems of roses
carried away by moonlight and melodies
until there was nothing left for me.
Funny, I always thought it would be
my liver that went first…