Phil Maillard



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
boyish, long-legged,

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,
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,
using word-thoughts.
A week later he died.


Head Injury

A dignified woman of about 75,
hit by a van that didn't stop.
Outwardly, she seems
alright - walking, eating,
speaking in well-formed,
clearly-articulated sentences
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
dangerous garden

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
         Corn mills
         Cloth & fulling mills
         Fishing (in the Afon Llwyd
         from the New Bridge
         to the River Usk

         & in the Usk itself
         every ninth day)

At Dissolution:

         1536-7: £15
         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
                 2000 lbs)

         There were 4 bells
                                          (says the vicar of Six Bells)

Llantarnam (2)


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
         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
                             Cwrw da
                         A seidir i chwi
                            Dewch y mewn
                         Chwi gewch y brofi

                         The Greenhouse
                             Good beer
                         And cider to you
                            Come in
                         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
                  of seeing
                         they’ve been conned somehow, despite
the self-confidence
         but whether by Nature, or by more
                  Earthly Powers
                         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?