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Six Welsh Poets

Jean Salkilld


Like the hunter in a world of melting ice
I see an image that evokes movement,

Two reindeer swim to meet migrating herds,
Autumn antlers indicate the season.

The hunting spear is rested and instead
Fine stone tools in skilled and careful hands

Carve detail on this thread of history.
Is this an offering to a Guardian-Guide

With supplication that the herd may prosper,
Returning to enrich the weak-linked chain

Of human life? I hear the distant voice
That shows without the cluttering of words

An untold story on a small bone fragment.
Looking through the magnifying glass,

I set back my clock thirteen thousand years
And celebrate the sculptor without a name.


(For Peter Thabit Jones)

I remember the time when Vincent became our hero,
When sunflowers grew from posters on our teen-age 
Bedroom walls and the sun and moon and stars
Swirled brightly on familiar-changing scenes;
And we painted searching images of self
And crossed the Pont de Langlois every day
And our favourite colour was yellow. 

Contagious yellow, contagious sun,

Distorting awareness of the inner fight,
The search for light through darkness in the mind,
To prove that sunflowers and yellow fields 
Can grow from a small, claustrophobic cell.

I see Vincent, even now,

The painter on his way to work, his hat’s
Broad brim a shield in the midday glare,
Dragging a dark, crooked shadow of himself
Along a sun-bright road; from corn-gold ripeness
Catching black crows in bruised, portentous skies
With his fevered, sable net, as if to feel 

Alive and not born from the dead.

I stop today at posters set around 
The town of Auvers-sur-Oise, each poster set
To mark the last step in Vincent’s desperate search 
For light he could not absorb ~ and there he rests;

Yet darkness is diminished in the yellow house
And on the pleasant café terrace at night;

Refulgent yellow, refulgent sun.

Caroline Gill


Who hears the bells of Rhymney as they toll?
There are no drams to draw along the tracks:
the empty tarmac waits for laden trucks,
but hollows in the hillside tell their tale.

The winch and winderman have long since gone:
deserted pits are crudely steeped in slag.
Would Shelley’s spirit ring out once again
if flames of silver leaped to greet the lark?

A sloping cemetery will testify
to times when angry voices could be heard.
An echo rises from the Rhymney bard:
it rocks and rolls a piercing lullaby.

The grass is brown: brass bands have lost their sheen,
but April’s music trickles down the rill.
A shaft of sun makes rainbow-puddles shine
in terraced streets, to light the poet’s trail.

Allotments snake along the mountain road,
with weathered water butts of blue and green.
A raven waits while seeds of hope are sown,
but wigwam-canes stand vacant and betrayed.

A poet plants his footsteps in the mire,
through furnaces and forges razed to soil.
Bare strips of sky and horizontal moor
arouse defiant voices in his soul.

Stonemasons shed their monumental tears
in mounds below the monkey puzzle’s arm.
A sombre moon casts shadows on the dawn:
a valley dreams beneath the midnight stars. 


This is the stone that serenades Wales.
Listen: perhaps you will catch its voice,
billowing out from those rare blue hills;
plucked from the soil of a windward race.

This is the stone with a tale to tell, 
weathered and flecked, and bound with rope;
trapped in a web, as the seasons sail
and centuries pass like lines of sheep. 

This is the stone that cries to the dawn
when westerlies rage and storms appear.
Oceans of hill fog smother its tune:
forests of icicles burn like fire.

Over the Severn, up to the Plain,
moving on from the land of its birth.
Blue for the crags on the windswept carn:
this is the stone that sings of hiraeth. 


They spied her sylphlike figure through a glass
and turned to pluck mosquitoes from her hair.
She beckoned to a boy who took his place

beside the chequered cloth, beneath the stars.
He played: she sang of home, and plumbed the depths
of exile, with her beggar’s bowl of fire.

Her plangent airs and wistful epithets
sent echoes to the wind. Transmutable
crescendos scaled the poet’s Spanish Steps,

and tears of turgid pain began to blow
across the Tiber’s bank. The waiter’s eyes
saw red: he raged and smashed her crucible.

She called her boy; and left, to their surprise,
a cone of cellophane, a fading rose.

Peter Thabit Jones

(for Patricia Holt)

Sleep is a train
That you missed tonight,

And now your mind
Is a junkyard

Of broken feelings.
Lit up like the dawn,

Your thoughts are late creatures
Seeking deep holes.

Your wintered heart beats
For tomorrow’s cold pulse.

And somewhere beyond
Your lonely house,

Quick tongues dig for love
And forests fall for kings.


September grieves in me;
My child, lost, shines
In the New Hampshire afternoon.

Words leave my mouth,
Weighted as apples
On a tree; words farmed

Long ago in a room
In Swansea, damp
With a coffined silence.

I read to people
I will never reach.
We are all in shadows.

A poem is not a step
In one’s ambition;
The drama of it

Is not an act
To get somewhere.
‘I am a singer merely,

I sing my song’.
Something there is
In me

That loves a wall,
The separation
From others.

‘No more heroes,
No more dreams,
Life’s what it is,

Not what it seems’
I wrote long ago
When the stars fell down.

And how their child lost,
Robert’s and Eleanor’s,
Shines in my mind.

Their folding
Of the clothes
No longer needed;

The falling emptiness;
The ‘Why?’ crying
Through the heart’s universe,

The scream of the blood
That the staring eyes shed.
Grief, a visitor,

In the rooms of the head.
Something there is 
In me 

That loves a wall,
The separation.
My words,

Their words, fall
Like apples
When there 

Is no-one around,
And the air, natural as God,
Consumes the song.

David Gill


Six women stand
facing the maiden’s shrine.
One sister has gone
removed to northern light.
Soon they will be alone
except for cats
sneaking through the stones.


Whispered words
“It can’t be true”
“All of them?”
They gather below the sacred stones
And weep at the Sicilian news.

Ashen faces
“We can’t go on”
“What’s the point?”
Satellite dishes line the ancient streets
While orange flames lick the screen.


Yes, I remember the Negev —
a rock, one morning
of chill and rain I sat,
expectantly. It was New Year.

The stream formed. In the wadi below
an ibex broke the silence.
No one came. What I saw was
the Negev — only the desert

and beetles, and lizards,
and lichens clinging in rocky cracks.
Above, the blackness turned to white,
floods of blue and gold.

And in that moment an eagle soared,
prophetic, silhouetted in the sky.
Far behind, the silent bustle
of a strife-torn city.

Aeronwy Thomas


They eye me beadily
dolls from another time
perched silent in a row
on a velvet sofa.
What am I doing there
invading their space
looking at
the unreal children.
In a moment
if I stay
past midnight
they’ll move
in unison,
step off their citadel
pat their skirts
no ankle on show
lift pretty hands	
with lacquered fingernails 
porcelain fingers
to choke the life
from unwanted 
night visitors.
I move
towards the exit

the flight of winding
wooden stairs
that got me there
in the attic with care

We look to the past
When the light shone brighter
When days were sun-filled
And after dark
We loitered hand in hand
Under its yellow beam
Your Summer dress picked out
Your face lit
In mysterious tones
As we cuddled together
Under the street lamp.				
We struggle to remember
Its warm glow
Its elegant form
While the sharp lights
Where we take
Our evening stroll
These Winter nights
Are so bright
Fail to flatter
Your hard-won lines
Your worried frown.
Oh, for the street lamps
When life was just begun
And I kissed you, my love,
Under the subtle rays.

A chubby man
followed me
to the library
along the streets
of Boston
past Dunkin’ Donuts
and Pete’s coffee and teas
into the pharmacy
for Vick’s Vaporub
to Harvard
and leafy trees.
His shadow 
followed me
up the steps
through the doors
of the public halls.
The throng already there
greeted the shadow
and not me
with loud applause
in the dusty halls
until he faded from sight
to his proper shape
a shade
and I stepped forward
flesh and blood
to shout to the wind,
the stars and the rain
to be acclaimed
by the crowd
in my own right
for a while free
of the shame
not to be him again
of the shadow
that keeps pace with me
throughout my life
that dogs my steps.

Lynn Hopkins


Sipping a night-cap, in the evening of life,
	she gazes at cardboard boxes.  
		Wrapped in yesterday’s news,
			distant relatives meet at last, 
				and perfect patches pattern the wallpaper.

Dusty biography is brushed under the carpet.  
	Skeletons are locked in creepy cupboard:
		 tittle-tattle prattles no more.

The doorbell sings its sinister song.  
	The antiquarian cunningly collects 
		possessions displayed for inspection;
			experience rewards his vision.  
In transit, her value slides into corners 
	of cardboard vaults. At journey’s end, it shatters
		 under the hammer of new beginnings.


A frail figure followed
A trail through the woods.
Thin as a prisoner,
Starved of  love,
She understood
Her filial function. 
She carried a bag as empty
As a loveless marriage.
Whistling wolves
Lay in wait, ready to bite,
Hungry for something
Only she could provide.  
Her father had warned her: 
“Be a good girl,
Put on your frock,
Give me a twirl,”
And the whirl of his hand
Fastened her hood.
Her straight hair draped 
From a brain as limp as impotence. 
Lipstick, as red as wounds, bled on her lips, 
Flowing like lava to her fingertips.
She emerged from the forest, lipstick intact,
The patriarch waiting to carry her bag,
Weighted with shame, blaming grandma.


Creaking into action, the dressmaker’s rusty 
Consciousness squeaks indelible thoughts;  
Floods of forgotten skills rush to perform.
Ivory cobweb threads pattern the lacy
Corners of the attic.  

Like an intoxicated bridegroom, 
The dummy stands in a funny sort of way. 
Creasing with laughter, the duchess satin 
Shakes off the dusty designs of ambition. 

Curiosity uncoils the measuring tape, 
It snakes around gathering statistics.  
The seamstress is a silvery statistic,  
Stitched to a realistic fate that tears 
The fabric of her being.

Watching from their cellophane window,
Tear drop pearls beg an invitation
To embellish: with shiny influence. 

Crazy with loneliness, the sewing machine
Longs for an electrical surge;
The switch is pressed. 

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah