The Following poems were read at the RS Thomas Literary Festival as part of a competition and open reading on September 18, 2022:
The Learner’s Eisteddfod
Ydw, I say. But, it’s barely true
One clumsy American. 100,000 Celtic warriors…faces painted blue. Or so I imagined.
But it’s only Taid a Nain and snotty Johnny Bach crying in the rain.
Dewi lifts his cup. Baptize the night in Bitters. Rhiannon dons the holy national garb... Wellies and short–shorts. A squabble of pubescent poets whistle and squawk around Rhiannon as she floats on mud and plastic pavements.
Despite the chiming of her birds, no one living slept that night.
The rains came hard. Sanctified our canvas homes, and everything we owned
was dipped in wind and water. This is my immersion, a festival of song and strange
tongues, far from my home of sun and surf.
In the Pavilion, a domesticated rebellion, a dream of crowns and thrones. We clap
the sword of peace. Does Bakhtin observe bemused from heaven as we inaugurate
this formal carnival with robed and solemn clowns?
Back at the old Welsh capel, their prayers break upon me, not just for these few hours,
nor for the days, but for the years…for eternity.* This is my home now…my Jerusalem.
Yet I will wake tomorrow, still that other, a stranger in this land of song and hwyl
and soft sorrows framed in yr hen iaith hir.
Ydw, I say. Leaning in.
* paraphrased from RS Thomas ‘The Other’, t. 457
In response to R.S. Thomas ‘The Lesson': “Return migrant, so your listeners arising on some May morning of the spirit may hear you whistling again softly…”
This God unseen, He hides beneath the robes
of cloud and sky and cracking thunderous nights
Behind the starry skies and sun’s stiff light
and winds that blow toward edge of curve of globe
He ever moving hides and then disrobes
a ghost who moves from in to out of sight
He hides I seek. I hide He seeks each night
and then upon hope’s door I pierce my lobe
I slave my ear to hear, my eye to see,
my mouth to cry in supplicating groans
I go to search, but stay to find my way
in paradox: in slavery I am free
to see, to hear, to cry these baleful moans
which celebrate the loss, the find, each day