The vicar can sit out now
after his stroke, in a chair.
He prefers that; more dignity.
He is dignified. Earnest.
Learned. Proud. Yet also
more like 49 than 60.
Handsome. Alert. But
his speech has really gone.
He can understand only
the simplest sentences, and
what he says is just
a jumble, with occasional
English stuck in the works.
He can read a few words
in large type, but without finding
much meaning; and
he cannot write at all.
He tolerates the nurses and
therapists, and looks as though
he understands it all,
irritation hovering behind
the professional nods. Yes,
yes, he says, impatiently,
but without responding
when asked to put the comb
next to the matchbox, or
point to the window.
Yes? he says, suspiciously, meaning,
well, what about the window?
He was known as a scholar,
and has had clerical visitors,
some from far away.
They've brought him
a Bible, and a thick Concordance.
The Bible he has put on the bed
where he can see it. Black-
bound power object. The Word.
But there are few words now.
He looks out the window.
A line of hills, and below them
the trees in the grounds.
I pray that his pride allows him
into the life beyond words,
where the leaves of The Book
are just like any other
leaves, shooting forth strongly
but also falling.
I pray, of course,
A week later he died.
A dignified woman of about 75,
hit by a van that didn't stop.
Outwardly, she seems
alright - walking, eating,
speaking in well-formed,
with a reassuring Lancashire accent.
However, she's clearly confused
about where she is,
and about recent events.
She's easily distracted
by any small noise or movement,
and she gets stuck on certain topics,
struggling for the right words.
She seems like someone who's inclining
towards a distant state or presence,
who can be called back
to the here-and-now only
with difficulty; a Dream Time
characterised by a looking-inward,
and verbalised as a questioning:
Why all this suffering?
She mentions some current horrors
from the news - wars, refugees,
murders - and labels this
a time of pain. She's wandering
through a glistening but
totally absorbed by the
opportunity to ask such questions.
And who's to say that she
doesn't need to spend time There,
between Life and Death, with the outcome
to be determined by the answers
she's finding There?
The cot sides are up around the bed.
The world will be ending in 14 years,
she says, that's what they say
in all the churches. I suppose,
I say, they've been saying that
for a long time? (I couldn't resist it.)
Oh yes, she replies, for there is
no irony in Dream Time.
All is single, whole,
and Time is different There.
Her husband arrives, with flowers,
a neat man in a tweed jacket.
Where is God? she asks,
in all this suffering, where is God?
Best not dwell on all that,
he says; and to me, I tell her
not to dwell on it.
That's what I tell her -
concentrate on getting yourself better,
never mind about everyone else's
troubles. Get herself better first.
He is unwrapping the flowers
at the sink, putting them
in a vase. I like flowers,
she says. I love flowers.
Daffodils, tulips... - she has
no trouble with the names -
but I love roses best.
Founded by Hywel ab Iorweth
Lord of Caerleon
from Strata Florida
where I have instituted
the white monks
in the monastery which is called Deuma
in the glen of Teyrnon
Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary
& Mary Magdalene, on her feast-day,
July 22nd 1179
Properties of the Abbey:
Shrine of Our Lady of Pen Rhys
at the healing well, Ffynon Fair,
offerings of alms & a taper
The image taken down
on Cromwell's orders
Sept. 26th 1538
& burnt in London
St Derfel's chapel
on the slopes of Mynydd Maen
3 miles NW of the Abbey
passed by an old road
deeply sunken through long usage
1272, possessions stolen
by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester
Ca 1398, serious fire.
1405, Owain Glyndwr attacked Usk
Abbot John ap Hywel killed in the battle
In the 16th Century the poet Sawnder Sion
(who lived at Llangovan but was a protégé of Llantarnam)
was buried in the neighbouring church
of Llanfihangel Llantarnam
The Glamorgan poet Dafydd Benwyn
wrote on Sion's death:
In the choir of St Michael
Is a bed, I shall weep.
There is poetry there
And great learning and choice knowledge.
And there went the lion of the monastery
Of Deuma yesterday to our regret.
Never wealthy, its lands
were hill land, common pasture
between Rhondda & Taff
except for the great common
of Hirwaun Wrgan
Clearance of woodland
Draining & enclosing
Cloth & fulling mills
Fishing (in the Afon Llwyd
from the New Bridge
to the River Usk
& in the Usk itself
every ninth day)
paid to plumbers, carpenters, tilers and labourers
for cutting down the bells
removing the lead and melting it
and weighing the lead and bells
The lead weighed
4 fothers 307 lbs
(1 fother being
There were 4 bells
(says the vicar of Six Bells)
Friday night in Gwent
- stormy week, rain, hail -
D. H. Lawrence had it right
the loneliness of the Celtic night
was that the quote?
down there in Zennor
or up here in Llantarnam
Ancient river-crossing site
the beginning of the Valleys, says
David Jones in THE SLEEPING LORD
from about Afan Lwyd/in the confines
of green Siluria/westward
Sweet chestnut in the churchyard
and the convent of St Mary adjacent
where the Holy Grail was kept -
After a terrible clap of thunder
the Grail appeared, covered
with a cloth of white samite
& held by no mortal hand.
At once the hall was filled
with fragrance, as though all the spices
of the earth had been spilled abroad.
Or is that the biscuit factory,
a sweet whiff of purpose, whole lifetimes spent
jamming the jam into Jammy Dodgers
and the spokes into Wagon Wheels?
& all washed down at THE GREENHOUSE
with a cauldron of Cwrw Da, New Ale,
turbid with fermentation,
forbidding to the sight and
nauseous to the taste
said Archbishop Coxe in 1799
contradicting the doorway’s promise:
Y Ty Gwrydd
A seidir i chwi
Dewch y mewn
Chwi gewch y brofi
And cider to you
And you shall taste it
Fat posing businessmen
blocking the bar
mobile phones & male bonding -
they take it all so clowning-serious, not a hope
they’ve been conned somehow, despite
but whether by Nature, or by more
I don’t know!
A blast of Rod Stewart
You’re In My Heart -
somehow that’s what’s missing - not
Rod Stewart but emotion
- the yeast of real feelings - everyone
so crass and guarded
I’m feeling emotional anyway.
Climb back in the car and
onto the motorway Friday night
Streaming cars And if I were to
get mine tonight - CRUNCH! - would it be
so bad, leaving with my heart
so full and ambiguous and this feeling
of sad understanding?