A bundle of 50 sticks for William and Juliet

Last Saturday I travelled down to Chepstow to read at an event organized by William Ayot who, with his wife Juliet, runs the On the Border series of readings. They tend to bill a Welsh poet with A. N. Other; I was the latter and Richard Gwyn the former. Richard runs the Creative Writing MA at Cardiff University and is a brilliant poet and translator from the Spanish (especially South American poetry). He read some heart-stoppingly powerful new work from three Mexican poets recently published in Poetry Wales and some of his own prose poems from Sad Giraffe Café (Arc Publications). I read from my translations of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus and also extracts from The Time We Turned.

Richard Gwyn

On the train down I was again reading Lee Harwood’s work (see my last blog post) and came across ‘Days and Night: Accidental Sightings – a bundle of 50 sticks for Joseph Cornell and others’. I’ve put together my own loose bundle of sticks as a modest thank you to William and Juliet for their hospitality in their extraordinary house, their passion for poetry in its widest sense, and that marvellous coronation chicken!

scout-sticks1

A bundle of 50 sticks for William and Juliet

At the track side willow belts always unkempt trunks leaning some broken

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luminous blue sky in early May

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On a diversionary loop the train slows as if to allow the doe standing knee deep in meadow grass to watch us as we pass we watch her

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She wears muddy walking boots and has brought out a flask of something hot

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clipping tickets he is careful to be polite though from those upgrading to First Class he has had money already

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‘why do you do this’ the effect is never quite the same twice

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In a faded green t-shirt a man walking with arms folded across his chest as if he had breasts he hoped to steady

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mud-brown canal waters held eight of nine feet high behind a lock gate

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An upturned wheelbarrow on a long houseboat its purple paint job a statement of optimistic intent

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Words carve out sense as tractor tyres embrown the field’s new growth each year their lines down the hillside conclude at an iron gate

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I feel with each mile nearer home I mean nearing the place I grew up in

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Hills like the scarp edge of Salisbury Plain wait O this is not a likeness this is ‘the actual place’

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a diversion to a chalk white horse full of memories

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the Tory heartlands a tractor slowly turning over the ground

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I ring home and wake my sleeping parents

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‘Let’s make flying fun again’

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a basket of split logs waits for the fire

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On a wooden writing desk three animal skulls

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‘quietude not inquietude’

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Nine owl feathers in a china mug a sort of chalice

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A glazed bowl with an assortment of matte pebbles from the beach

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His son spoke out but the police were in bed with the FARC who saw to it he and his friends were tortured and killed can you believe it

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I like to work I prefer to work with those who want to want to stop

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a tall poplar tree like an exclamation mark he wrote as if to say this is it

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One skull another skull then another skull beside another skull

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rose gardens and orchards

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If they haven’t killed enough by their early 20s they’re losers whose life expectancy is anyway no more than 24

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Down to the underworld but returns if somewhat empty-handed he does return

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mausoleums for themselves a cult of death

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Bluebells in the hedgerows on either side of the road

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left hand short by two digits his wife’s wrist broken by a fall

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shut-eyed Blake above the flat-screen TV seems to offer the room a challenge

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the watercourse way

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Everything is a fiction the novel in your shoulder bag is the bank statement you use as a bookmark inside it that too

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The narrative of the oh-eight crash there are other ways for it to be recounted that’s not a joke

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Oppositional to a large degree I guess we are not pebbles from the same beach but it’s more than just rubbing along

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A chimney balloon

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On-line so many ‘friends’ devastated by the surprise results

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It’s staying in places like this makes me feel a Londoner

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He waves his paddle to let the train go then flips it up inside the back of his orange hi-viz jacket and pushing the handle into his back pocket it’s safely stowed

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A speck of thistledown drifting up the aisle

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attentiveness

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banked blue rectangles squat in meadows to scoop the sunlight

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Dirt is matter out of place but this is not dirt it is marvelously out of place

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Red kite above the monkey puzzle

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on an elevated hillside ahead yellow rape now level with me receding away behind

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In tunnels my ears close as if valved

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either that or everything is a metaphor I see myself turning socks inside out little involved packages

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What will Rose and Richard be doing this morning

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Wishing Iolo courage for his father’s passing

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