Tag Archives: Wales


heart 3

Inspired by Owen Sheers’ book Calon: A Journey to the Heart of Welsh Rugby

strange muscle
this carmine closed fist
vital percussionist

hollow metronome
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

untimely unrest
of arrhythmic pulse
steadying once more

to beat


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Filed under Free Verse, Poetry

Taylor on Burton


He came;
swaggering incendiary,
Celtic virility dripping
from his rim,
gravelly timbre
raking each glassy breath.

Vows lost
amid wedded shards,
freefall shapes blown
of our own viscous chaos,
twisted stem highballs
amid unstable natron flux.

We poured ourselves
into a decade, oblivious,
in hot, sticky carnality,
sluiced scotch
on cut-glass rocks
scooped from cold crystal
to tranquilise engorged
fuck-heat fingers.

fire-cut and ruined,
we retreated
to misshapen solid
states, mixing virulent
cracked lacquer cock tales
of medicated misery
and miscast lovers

until blistered and bloated,
clasped in the cold grip
of the parison,
he bled into the Céligny night,

leaving me to languish,
ribboned red,
marbling centuries of loss
on blue-glaze Portland,
clutching his script
in death-wax hands.

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Burton on Taylor


She came;
violet eyes brazing,
hair liquid black,
from Morfa’s glutted seam.

She blessed and burnt
my summer daze,
a crucible of white heat,
her gleaming teeth
cursed, dispersed
the icy hellions
of my bleak winters.

We raged with it,
the horn-ridden beast,
hollered as we let it claw
our clothes, rip ecstasy
from our throats, gouge
our eyes with the taloned
beauty of idolised youth.

Ten years we burned
between the sun and its
mutant reflection,
amid lust
and sallow loathing,
quaffing piss-amber
liquor between
fighting and fucking

until molten and wet,
she snaked from my
volcanic mouth,
left me spent and spewing,
to roam the sodden streets;
livid, raw, weeping whisky
into soot-filled gutters,
scuttling the gulf
of snot-drowned grief,

an ashen shadow of a man
bearing the red welt
of a life half-lived,
without her.

~ Bit of a departure for me. I’m fascinated by the relationship between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. They had a passionate, tempestuous marriage between 1964 and 1974, remarrying 16 months after their divorce, the second marriage lasted less than a year. He likened their marriage to rubbing two sticks of dynamite together.

Burton died of a brain haemorrhage in August 1984. He was buried in a red suit, a tribute to his Welsh roots, and with a copy of Dylan Thomas’s poems, many of which he had recorded to great acclaim. Burton wrote Taylor countless love letters over the years, even when they were apart. His last was delivered to her home three days after his death. She died 27 years later in March 2011 and was buried with the letter.

I’ve tried to write this from Burton’s point of view after they divorced in 1974. You kinda have to imagine his deep, rich Welsh voice to get the full effect. If you don’t know what he sounded like check out the link – hands down the best reading of Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle.

Richard Burton reads Dylan Thomas



Filed under Free Verse, Poetry

A Tale of Two Margarets



Margaret sips her Tea,
shadowcast in pastel pleated light,
her muddled shoulders warmed

by the tasselled Kashmiri shrug;
a ‘gift’ when gifts were
still worth trading.

No-one left to fight now;
Bobby, gone hungry
to his tricolor grave,

the Argies defeated,
Las Malvinas – pah!
And Arthur and his boys;

crepuscular dust,
crushed beneath her
favoured Ferragamos.

The fire needs banking up,
she calls for Dennis
but he never comes.


Margaret sips her tea
in the sputtering light
of a saucered candle,

her scrawny shoulders
balmed by her grandmother’s
gifted nursing shawl.

No-one left to fight for now,
her man gone, his ashes
scattered on Garw’s slag heap.

Branded a ‘scab,’ shattered
by hunger and poverty, begging
scraps from neighbours;

driven to cross an
unrecoverable line. Just one
of twenty thousand ruined men.

The fire needs banking up,
she calls for Bryn
but he never comes.

~ Background information for those not familiar with British political history ~

The first Margaret is Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister 1979 – 1990. She was nicknamed the Iron Lady because of her uncompromising political attitude.

‘Bobby’ is Bobby Sands the Irish terrorist/political prisoner depending on your point of view on the Northern Ireland situation. He started a hunger strike whilst in prison in 1981 in attempt to regain the rights of paramilitary prisoners. In public she refused to budge and Sands and nine others starved themselves to death for their cause. He was 27 years old. Over 100,000 people lined the route for his funeral and his coffin was draped in the Irish tricolor.

In April 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) which was occupied by the British. Thatcher’s government sent a naval task force to retake the islands. Argentina surrendered on the 14th of June after the loss of 900 lives, most of them Argentinian. The ‘conflict’ is still not resolved.

Thatcher was a driven woman when it came to the trade unions and was determined to crush them. She accused their leaders of undermining parliamentary democracy and economic performance through strike action. The biggest confrontation between Thatcher’s government and the unions was the miners’ strike. In March 1984 the National Coal Board proposed the closure of 20 of the 174 state-owned mines cutting 20,000 jobs. Two thirds of the country’s miners went on strike resulting in nationwide power cuts (which I remember, as will Becky, Alan and Paul). It also resulted in the striking miner’s families living in abject poverty and deprivation and many men gave in under the strain and crossed the picket lines. They were labelled ‘scabs’ by their striking workmates. Thatcher likened her fight with the miners to her fight with Argentina and called them ‘the enemy within’. After a year long strike the miners’ union conceded. 150 coal mines closed in all resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. Many of these were in the Welsh valleys, ripping the hearts out of communities. Decades on the valleys and its people have never recovered – economically or socially.

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Filed under Free Verse, Tercets




As the warmth of the day crawled away
and Dionysus loosed our tongues
the conversation slipped to sliding doors.

Is it possible to miss a life not lived?


I knew you
in the crude cave markings daubed by thick
Neanderthal fingers, in sand grains beneath
the soles of slaves at the foot of Pyramid labours.

I knew you
in Inca trails, in Pucara temples in Tiwanuka
and Titicaca, in stratospheric particle matter
before and after the fire starter.

I knew you
in Bluestone caves, in sinews of the brave
who carried them to Pentre Ifan, in their deity
and in their deaths on Preseli’s heathered hills.

I knew you
as a stripling yew, in its sap as it grew
and bled, trickling amber down husky bark
to churchyard daffodil beds.

I knew you
in the sparkling streams of Mynydd Mawr,
in Gelert’s yelp, Llewellyn’s grief, in Arthurian
tales and Cerridwen’s poet child.

I knew you
in vellum maps, stained beneath the fingers
of Columbus’s wanderlust and in the stolen
Spanish gusts that filled El Draque’s sails.


As the warmth of the day
crawled back and Dionysus’
wrath lay heavy on our tongues

I knew
that had I lived the life
I miss, I would have known
only the gelid absence of you.

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Rock Paper Scissors

If I’m on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I’m ice they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.


~ Anne Sexton

A bemused observer
of their game until now,
I have become a portentous player
for I am Water.

Not the cleansing hill streams of Snowdonia,
the bottled minerals of Cerist,
or the bland, reservoir-rated,
‘lapped from the dog’s bowl’ drink.

I am neither clear nor pure.
I do not quench their sand-filled throats
with the serum of their early years
or cool their ragged-flanelled fevers
as my beads burn from their foreheads.

I am torrents of snot-filled globules
bubbling in a salty cauldron,
liquid spittle unravelling before them.
I am deliquescent disorder,
drowning amid the septic sewer’s craw.

So what will become of them?

My rock,
my tiny pebble
who grew into a heather-faced
mountain of a man,
strong enough that I could lean on him
and feel small against his contours
his steady drumbeat a perfect paradiddle
to my erratic metronome.
Will he plunge into the slithering river,
his rhythm faint and failing
as he sinks into the brackish silt?

My first-born paper boy,
so many scribbled lines shared late into the night,
even when distanced by the delerium
of drunken student life.
Will his blue-scribed words bleed,
his pages turn to pulp
as his adolescent song
runs sopping through the gutters?

And what of her,
my sharp-tongued, slippery seamstress
with her silver-fish wit and her precious metal smile,
her glinting shears swathing effortlessly
through the diaphanous dream
that she weaves around her.
Will her blades rust
beneath the deluge of my sorrow,
as the naïve loom lies abandoned
in the corner of a cobwebbed room?

for I am Water.
I can be poured
back into the pitcher,
treated and filtered
until I run clean and clear again,
dancing weightless and unfettered
in the myriad sparkling streams
of Mynydd Mawr
where they will lift me to their lips
in cool-cupped hands
and sup from me once more.

~ Mynydd Mawr ( Welsh for big mountain) is a mountain in Snowdonia, North Wales and is pronounced Mun-ith Mow-r (rhymes with hour)

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Paddling out under flawless Sapphire,
Apollo – a million glisters
on rippled Emerald,

startled by the crane’s cry,
a lone clergymen on cathedral cliffs;
a rough-hewn reminder

that though each of us is out here alone,
with only our prayers for protection,
we are also free.


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No altar, no rose-scented petalled bed,

no morning suit-grey waiting to be wed.

No priest, no vows, save those we’ve mined and spun;
soft Clogau truths exchanged by candlelight.
This stolen time, as we outrun the sun,
permits us to perform this ancient rite.

A simple room, this bless’ed bridal suite,
commune, cocoon, until the morning light.
White wedding gown, a simple cotton sheet,
sweet affirmations, raptured we unite.

Our altar, this sex-scented metal bed,
we sing our Hallelujahs and are wed.




~ Clogau gold (pronounced Clog – I) is rare Welsh Gold from the Clogau gold mine in the mountains of Snowdonia.



Filed under Poetry


As loneliness slips in beside,
and fills the space where warmth once lay,
in creeps hiraeth in shades of grey;

cuts deep the sheets with sharpened scythe.
Future borrowed from tomorrow
to gladly pay the levied tithe

and have the past rewind/replay
as loneliness slips in beside.




~ Hiraeth is a Welsh word. Like many strong passionate words in the language there is no single English word that adequately translates the meaning of the word but it means a deep sense of longing, a yearning for that which has past, a sense of homesickness tinged with grief or sorrow over the lost or departed.


The piece is written in Octain form, an explanation of which can be found at this link.





Filed under Octain, Poetry

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