More from Snowdonia
Tuesday, 29 December 2020 at 11:32
As promised, another poem from the Snowdonia period.
It was a pretty bleak time in an odd, isolared place. Mountains, sheep, abandoned houses.
The RAF practised low-level flying over the area, and my house seemed to be a landmark for jets to aim for, or bank away from.
Old sheds, abandoned cars, the penned-in ram;
barbwire, some wind-puffed clouds - their speed mocked by
hillsides of placid ewes and fattened lambs:
kapok-y flocks of scattered cumuli.
Out painting: the squint of low but welcome sun,
next door’s washing on the line, blue sky.
Spatter red for berries; scratch out for thorns.
Smudge huge cow’s arses, brindled creamy-white.
Outline in black, a bull, moon-horned,
head rising in parentheses of light.
Dilemmas hinted at in chiaroscuro;
darknesses sketched, though paint’s still wet and bright.
Sun-spoked clouds. Swift time-lapse shadows:
a film condensing lifetimes on the hill.
Above, a hawk’s seen off by squawking crows.
This stuff you just can’t catch. It won’t stay still.
The sudden rumble... then whoosh from here to Snowden.
Harriers skip dry-stone walls. The sky’s ripped silk.
Cross-wires lock on something beyond the horizon’s
spirit-level. South, mountains; lights where east darkens;
north-west, sea curves like a slivered moon.
Down here it’s just spooked sheep, gro-bags, tin cans;
chipped slate, spilled paint, sawdust, a barking dog;
sump oil, engine blocks and rusting iron;
the ferret sleeping in his stinking cage.
Down by the sea, Bangor’s closed off - some joker
left a package in the public bogs.
The chickens are kicking up a fuss, the cock’s
beady, claws paused from scratching in the junk.
The drain is blocked by leaves. Sunday, the clocks
go (Spring forward, Fall back) ... back.
Shift the concrete lump, inch lid to check
how much coal’s still left in the bunker.
Looks like I’m staying on again, I guess.
See another winter out, shut in
by the tv’s fire, or listening to the rolling news
against the rain drumming on the extension’s
plastic roof, staring at the blanks
of these big canvasses I’ve stretched.
Or, the radio fading late into the night,
waiting for the first sniff of snow in the air,
- fresh primer in a bucket, floor spattered white -
the promise of a studio drenched in light.
Friday, 25 December 2020 at 09:06
It's been an odd year. The pandemic almost made us forget the impending national social-isolation of Brexit working its mournful way towards us. Here's something I wrote one quite different socially-isolated winter when I lived in North Wales. I'd come to teach at Bangor University. After the contract ended I stayed on, first living in an old miner's cottage in Bethesda, near the slate works, and then further up in the foothills of Snowdonia. It was cold, wet and often snowing. Trying to survive as a freelance writer, I had very little money. Once or twice a week I'd cycle down to Bangor to sign on, load up with provisions, go to Welsh lessons, or just find a warm pub. It was always a hard slog to climb the mountains home. I never really did master Welsh.
I'll post a couple of further poems from this period as this dark year slowly slides away.
This little sequence appeared in Trans (The Collective Press, Wales,) 2005
Three Views from Snowdonia
Wind busy in the kitchen,
ice curling under slate.
Moss, rug-thick up to the hearth,
nettles burning in the grate.
Snow scraps or dirtied linen.
A blouse, a wind-rolled underskirt
- washing fallen from the line -
thorn-frayed sheets, a rock-snagged shirt.
A henge of weathered slabs:
a doorway opens to the sky.
A lintel, neolithic, that can’t quite
frame the mountain; support
its freight of cold and light.
It shoulders past, barges by.
The five-bar gate
creaks an eight-bar blues
as its hinges whinge
and the bottleneck wind
skids along barbed wire.
It takes the beat of your boots
sodding clay from a field
to stamp another song
along the lonesome lane.
punked under the mohican’s flick;
rough sleepers’ dusty quiffs;
stringy tails, matty dreads,
newly flecked, dandruffed
with the first few flakes.
- Incoming snow.
Shaggy, stocky, sturdy
- running just shy of wild.
Something in their eyes
that keeps them in loose herds:
a nervy philosophy
of wind and moor and hoof.
And, hair-triggered, one hind leg
always cocked to go.
Mooning between outcrops, silhouettes
where the skyline disappears
in rain or mist or snow.
Or pounding down
to that dip of moss,
churning boggy ground
- away from sheep-bleat, slate walls, lambs,
the wind-crack of polythene, abandoned drums.
And the river, ever busy, letting everyone know
it’s wanted elsewhere, can’t hang about,
just getting on with it, pushing past those drums
marked in bright orange BIOPRO.
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Friday, 22 January 2010 at 11:26