30 October 2016

And the daughters of darkness flame like Fawkes fires still

                                           by Dylan Thomas

In the White Giant’s Thigh

Through throats where many rivers meet, the curlews cry,
Under the conceiving moon, on the high chalk hill,
And there this night I walk in the white giant’s thigh
Where barren as boulders women lie longing still

To labour and love though they lay down long ago.

Through throats where many rivers meet, the women pray,
Pleading in the waded bay for the seed to flow
Though the names on their weed grown stones are rained away,

And alone in the night’s eternal, curving act
They yearn with tongues of curlews for the unconceived
And immemorial sons of the cudgelling, hacked

Hill. Who once in gooseskin winter loved all ice leaved
In the courters’ lanes, or twined in the ox roasting sun
In the wains tonned so high that the wisps of the hay
Clung to the pitching clouds, or gay with anyone
Young as they in the after milking moonlight lay

Under the lighted shapes of faith and their moonshade
Petticoats galed high, or shy with the rough riding boys,
Now clasp me to their grains in the gigantic glade,

Who once, green countries since, were a hedgerow of joys.
Time by, their dust was flesh the swineherd rooted sly,
Flared in the reek of the wiving sty with the rush
Light of his thighs, spreadeagle to the dunghill sky,
Or with their orchard man in the core of the sun’s bush
Rough as cows’ tongues and thrashed with brambles their buttermilk
Manes, under his quenchless summer barbed gold to the bone,

Or rippling soft in the spinney moon as the silk
And ducked and draked white lake that harps to a hail stone.

Who once were a bloom of wayside brides in the hawed house
And heard the lewd, wooed field flow to the coming frost,
The scurrying, furred small friars squeal, in the dowse
Of day, in the thistle aisles, till the white owl crossed

Their breast, the vaulting does roister, the horned bucks climb
Quick in the wood at love, where a torch of foxes foams,
All birds and beasts of the linked night uproar and chime

And the mole snout blunt under his pilgrimage of domes,
Or, butter fat goosegirls, bounced in a gambo bed,
Their breasts full of honey, under their gander king
Trounced by his wings in the hissing shippen, long dead
And gone that barley dark where their clogs danced in the spring,
And their firefly hairpins flew, and the ricks ran round –

(But nothing bore, no mouthing babe to the veined hives
Hugged, and barren and bare on Mother Goose’s ground
They with the simple Jacks were a boulder of wives) –

Now curlew cry me down to kiss the mouths of their dust.

The dust of their kettles and clocks swings to and fro
Where the hay rides now or the bracken kitchens rust
As the arc of the billhooks that flashed the hedges low
And cut the birds’ boughs that the minstrel sap ran red.
They from houses where the harvest bows, hold me hard,
Who heard the tall bell sail down the Sundays of the dead
And the rain wring out its tongues on the faded yard,
Teach me the love that is evergreen after the fall leaved
Grave, after Beloved on the grass gulfed cross is scrubbed
Off by the sun and Daughters no longer grieved
Save by their long desires in the fox cubbed
Streets or hungering in the crumbled wood: to these
Hale dead and deathless do the women of the hill
Love for ever meridian through the courters’ trees

And the daughters of darkness flame like Fawkes fires still.

23 October 2016

The white mouth of the snowcloud

                                                Paul Kingsnorth


When I feel tall I tell myself
that when the time comes I will know
as the elephant knows as the puma knows
and I will go
to Vodadahue Mountain
by the deep green inlet
by the deep green gorge
and in steady pain I will climb the basalt tower
and on the last ice step before the summit
unmarked by everything but air
I will be still for a long moment
and then let the white mouth of the snowcloud eat me
and there will be only this silence
and the trees at the foot will begin to feed
and I will have paid back all that I have owed
and there will be only this silence.

18 October 2016

The great hunger

                                                      by Sheenah Pugh

Chocolate from the Famine Museum
Strokestown, Co Roscommon

Reading numbers on a wall,
so many thousand evicted,
exiled, starved,

soon palls. The boys are looking
for buttons to press,
and Sir’s at a loss

how to bring it alive. He tries
to give them the reek
of peat smoke and lamp oil

in a cramped turf cabin,
wishing there was a replica
they could crowd into.

At every turn, language
fails him. Starving
means wanting dinner,

not boiling boot-leather
till you can chew it,
hoping it stays down.

They sailed to America,
he laments, to lads
who’ve flown there

on holiday, who make nothing
of oceans. They fidget
through the video,

dying for their reward:
the gift shop.
Their faces light up,

for the first time, at sheep
in green hats, penny whistles,
toy blackthorn sticks,

and the chocolate. Praline,
ganache, mint, mocha, truffle,
they’re spoiled for choice,

their day flavoured
for ever with the velvet
dark in their mouths.

From the Times Literary Supplement, October 18, 2016.