onsdag, juni 14, 2006

The Inland Murmur of Jet Lag Poetry

Awake at odd hours since returning from Asia this past Friday, I occupied the fire in my brain one night with some writing. Insomnia is not such a bother when it's productive.

I remembered that a Welsh friend had offerred two months ago to pay my entry fee into a Welsh poetry and fiction contest if I was willing to give it a go. I said yes, then promptly forgot to work towards that contest. So in the insomniac hours, I recalled the contest and its June 18 deadline.

I'm not much of a poet, but I enjoy the way it opens one's thoughts. The poem I wrote follows, sans an effort at line breaks. A few explanatory notes are included too.

Afon Gŵy

I knew you in the hills when you were young enough still to be called a boy yet not object as you stood among the fractured rocks whose history you knew at that time only through books.

The old gods had protested at being forgotten and had pounded the stone ceiling of their hall, now so much like a tomb, up through the heather and peat and into the grey gauzy sky. But the weight was more than their fist bones could bear. Night had fallen without a star. They slept.

So one day you climbed into the hills, your face afire with the ill-turned heat of what must have been a first love. You cast stones that hit the water—Twp! Twp!—and sang three lines over and over, self-conscious, the volume dipping as you kept watch, but clearly you’d a well-trained voice—a tenor, I think—hidden in the wet black vault from which you drew breath.

Time passed. I cooled your skin, the conduit of a conscience. And, rushing onward, took fistfuls of mud, more than once a child, a hastily scrawled prayer, even a young couple’s undergarments, though they remained, happily, where they stood.

I washed my mouth with scales. I screamed at the sycamores, took the insults of birds. I batted at the white matte light that flickered like flame against my skin.

In the darkness, all I do is dream. Even the wrens envy this.

1. Afon Gŵy is the Welsh name of the River Wye, providing some of the border between England and Wales. It begins in the Cambrian Mountains, at Plynlimon, and runs through Tintern, a point Wordsworth wrote about quite well.
2. "Twp" is a Welsh word meaning "stupid." It's pronounced sort of like "tuhp."
3. Going back millennia, the wren is the king of birds in Celtic culture.
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