100 Slices
Medium 9781847778512

Welsh Blacks

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. ePub

The cattle come to the hedge,

curious and hopeful, their hay

a mess on the snow. Six Welsh Blacks

and their bull slowly approaching

over the perfect field. Each tree

remarkable against snow,

an illustration from the book

of winter. Frozen waters fall

down the face of the Fan and fringe

the frontal bones of the bull.

His red tongue flares in the hay.

Snow obliterates our tracks

and melts in the pulled sweetness

of hay on the cattle’s breath.

The snow crosshatches where the corn

grew slant in summer.

Beyond silence an iron wind

begins, and a heavier snow

fills the ribcage and the kettle

of the skull. How can you, or he

in the black bulk of his beauty,

know what blizzard filled a kitchen

with goosefeathers and the whiff

of burning spirits the day

before a funeral? Or hear

the thunder of a secret snow

fall from a warm roof?

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Medium 9781847778512

Les Combarelles

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Les Combarelles

These are our thoughts, the pulse in bone, the stream in the artery.

We were young here, made our first fires, saw by tallow light each other’s skin and astonished eyes.

Hieroglyphics, words flowered, calcite crusted to first poems.

We made a doe, drinking at this natural stream.

It was not quite what we meant, but a beginning, a source.

‘Summer’s going quickly now’

We are caught in a storm, this last day at St. Amand de Coly. First rain comes fast. It is suddenly cold.

In the café opposite the church the old woman, almost blind, insists we want apricot juice after all.

If she could see the glasses I am sure she would polish them for us, proudly, with an immaculate cloth. My French scarcely adequate for the long, sweet conversation she wants of us,

I tell her about Wales, our rain, our language. Strangely she knows already.

A Welshman passed this way two days ago.

Hearing the thunder, rain at the open door, she stands to feel it, reflectively.

‘L’été va vite maintenant,’ she says, and again, no longer talking to us,

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On Rhiwbina Hill

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. ePub

Often in winter I think of this

a car parked crookedly beside a wall,

track under snow and all the quiet trees

in the dead slow of winter. Everything

aslant the path cut into the slope,

boots gathering clay and dead leaves.

A branch of beech buds blossoming snow.

Children ringing like birds. A distant train

howled as it climbed, caught in its narrow track.

Underneath, in the dead distant fibres

of the reaching trees, something already

must have begun to live, unrecognized,

before the train had crossed the viaduct.

Already the severed beech twigs stirred

in my hands, veins spreading, finding sap, blood.

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Friesian Bull

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. ePub

He blunders through the last dream

of the night. I hear him, waking.

A brick and concrete stall, narrow

as a heifer’s haunches. Steel bars

between her trap and his small yard.

A froth of slobbered hay droops

from the stippled muzzle. In the slow

rolling mass of his skull his eyes

surface like fish bellies.

He is chained while they swill his floor.

His stall narrows to rage. He knows

the sweet smell of a heifer’s fear.

Remembered summer haysmells reach him,

a trace of the herd’s freedom,

clover-loaded winds. Seed

blows up the Dee breathing of plains,

of cattle wading in shallows.

His eyes churn with their vision.

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Medium 9781857549867

Cordelia’s ‘Nothing’

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Cordelia’s ‘Nothing’

Where do poems come from? An architect sees an interior before he sees the building. Before a roof and walls there is space and light.

That’s how it feels when a poem is about to form: there is an idea, an image, a fuzzy line, a fizzing excitement, but the words have yet to speak. Even if there are words it is somehow too dark to read them, though a phrase or a line may be legible already. But as soon as this unclear vision declares its presence one can be certain that the poem can be written.

For me, the poem arrives in a coinciding moment of language and energy. Its subject is like a novelist’s plot – merely an excuse to rummage in the mind for language. There are few plots and all writers share the same small store, using them over and over again.

When a poem is on the way it feels as though energy has been lying in wait for language. Or is it the other way about? And whence does that language come flooding, as strongly as any of the driving human passions, and as suddenly, as mysteriously? The poem is begun in that moment of germination, though it must be unmade and made again in the cold light of the mind before it can be called a finished work of art. To have an idea for a poem is to have nothing at all.

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