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Taith Adref

A poem of reflection on my roots, deeply held, deeply felt, tied to a special place revisited

By Rachel DeemingPublished 3 months ago Updated a day ago 8 min read
7

It starts with a beach walk;

A regular foray to meet with the sea

And the sand and the rocks

And look back to how it was

And how it is still:

This longing to be here,

Ozone-coated; leaving indents

In the sand, my foot a riven plunger.

Marks are left for a moment and

Met with resistance from

The home of the lug worms

And their cluster-bomb spaghetti piles.

Dunes bristle behind

The pebbles' border guard with

Fallen driftwood sentries hinting

At the sunkenness of ancient forests

And their buoyant shaped vessels.

The Atlantic stretches, white and frothing

Dotted with riders, black-skinned in suits.

This place, it is desolate and full;

An expanse of nature wild

And captured.

***

Gwlad! Gwlad!

I feel the dragon, wet and wild

Speckling my face with fiery salt,

Reddening my cheeks with boisterous gusts

From the monstrous flexing of its wings;

Welcoming me back with its coy eye

From the coves and niches where it perches.

I love this place,

This piece of Wales.

It has comfort for me

In its folds and sharp edges.

It changes:

Longshore drift with its potter's hands

Pushes grains to cover bones,

Kneading the landscape with

Its push and pull, to and fro,

Heel and fist,

The sea as its dynamic instrument.

***

I am this beach:

The same and yet different

Ever-shifting,

Known but not known.

The essence is the same with every visit:

I am

The Land of My Fathers' Fathers.

***

It is time to leave

And refresh ourselves, my boy and I

With Granny's vittles:

Warm cakes and hot tea.

Pebbles grab at our feet,

Trying to trip us, delay us,

Contorting our movements so we stay

In the rough sanctuary of the sand gods.

The car sits like a patient dog

And we clamber in

And feel the stillness of upholstery

And plastic.

The beach beckons behind us

But we are no longer drawn to it,

Our eyes turned away

As we retreat up the hill:

Passing fences of barbed wire,

Fluttering flags of sheep's fleece

Caught and frantically flapping

As the wind plays invisibly.

A dead badger watches at the roadside

Through clouded eyes,

His twisted form sympathetic

To the trapped helpless lanolin fibres.

***

The cliffs recede; the hedges loom.

Muck ridged by tractor tyres

Disguises the roads;

Tracked and marked

Turning into a field entryway,

Tally-gated.

An odd house lines the road,

A windowed spectator to our visit.

An ancestral farm of loving memory

Waves as we pass,

Showering flashes of fuzzy warmth

Like an eighties' pop video

In soft focus.

A village, a hamlet, a cluster of dwellings approaches

And allows us to pass through.

But we stop suddenly.

A whim.

Sea is to the right, over the wall, brambles and barb.

To the left, a lane, high banked and narrow,

The pathway to a special place.

I am with my baby teen.

It is time shared so far

And now, a time to share further.

***

I turn the wheel.

Where? Mum? Where?

You'll see.

And we head down

The strange familiar lane.

The trees encroach steadily

As our car heads towards discovery.

Gravel, grey, dotted with weeds.

A block of steps, a wall with iron rings

But no horses tethered or mounted anymore.

A lychgate, like a folklore wishing well

A fairytale illustration that shadows the entry.

A herringbone path under iron black gates.

A fist, clenched handle, lightened

Through the gloved touch of the pious.

I am flooded with remembrance

As the mossy headstones, keening

And reaching above brambles

Stare their solemn greeting,

Softened only by moss.

The path is mossened too.

Moss upon moss; the indicator of Nature's love

And human neglect.

And there you are

And my heart swells

At your battlements and your grey stoned reach

Into the blue.

A spiritual house of the Norman God.

Your caged mouth is red rusty.

Are you locked to us,

This backdrop to memory happy and sad?

No. The knob yields and we step inside.

A porch. White walled and stone made.

A dwarf door set up above a ledge;

I am transported.

I am a little girl again

With my son.

I am here with generations,

Wisps of love tickle as I gaze

At my surroundings.

The arched door stands closed.

Is the porch as far as we will go?

One other hopeful visitor tried; we saw.

We anticipated rejection

But we are intrepid and determined,

And bold!

Driven by emotion and history.

The handle turns and we enter.

***

This place was torturous as a child-

Boring!

Repetition of archaisms

And numb buttocks ruled

As time betrayed me mercilessly,

The servant of God:

Lord, have mercy.

Singing unfamiliar words

Of poets enthralled by redemption:

Alleluia and amen.

These hymns remain with me still,

The fabric of my being,

Entwined with duty and respect

And as I grew older,

Deep, deep love,

My adult mind knowing the truth of gestures

Ill-examined by children.

It is good to be here again,

To share remembrances with my son.

***

You are dirty. Dark.

I do not dare light you up.

Ah, but it is good to see you!

I am surprised by your size.

Have you shrunken, agéd as you are?

It has been years, twelve.

You are diminished in those few

But you have been standing for hundreds:

How can this be?

Is it a result of neglect, your hollowness?

It matters not to me.

I feel a connection regardless.

I know you. You comfort me. There is love here.

This is a treat, shuffling through droppings

And dust, smelling your musty air.

Bats no longer in the belfry

But coursing and diving in the pews

The new parishioners.

I well up, like a baptismal font

At the sight of you.

It has been so long.

***

We explore.

My son fears you.

I don't. I am deep in your belly,

Brown ribbed, lit by shafts.

St. Michael reminds me of Nanny,

Sat, poised, music sheets placed.

Organ-playing grandmother, humble and dutiful.

***

You arch before me,

I pass your human heart, the pulpit

And I climb towards your altar,

Treading the tiled steps of glorious pattern

To the club-carved wooden gate.

I was married here.

My parents were married here.

Stained glass witnesses gaze down

In recognition.

The grime does not disturb me

When I disturb it.

I fill with sadness at your decline

But why?

This is a spiritual place

But spirituality is not a place.

I am sad because who cares?

No worship happens here

Though the vestiges remain of

Your glory days.

You are History, and you are my history.

That gives you worth

In my eyes.

***

Memories assault me as I move

And explain.

Bell-ringing grandfather, proud and dutiful-

This is where he sat.

He loved to sing,

Deep baritone,

His outline before me, his farmer shoulders

Broad and strong.

A simple, loving, happy man.

And there, in the dust, on his seat,

An imprint.

Someone has sat there.

It could be him.

I like to think so.

I should feel spooked

But feel no shiver

Only a warm gladness.

***

"You were here before," I tell my boy.

"It was the last time I was here too.

You were with me while I spoke,

Close to my heart as I read tribute."

He does not know. He was a babe.

He will not remember the sadness of that day.

I do.

It is tied up in my memory of this place.

And it is meet and right that it is so.

I hope they are here.

I hope they see me.

***

We head up the bank.

I remember the release

Of the service end,

Emerging from the cold

From enclosure to sun

And the freedom to be a kid again,

To scamper and fidget.

We trudge and seek

The stones of importance.

The sea shimmers in the distance,

A view to admire.

Resting here

Are other ancestors,

Discussed but not seen

Known only static, flat and framed,

By my boy.

But by me, they are living still.

I can hear them and see them

In rooms and settings

Gathered with others.

They are part of me,

With me.

Not just in the place

Although I am rooted here

In so many ways,

Tied, tethered.

The stone reminds me

That they are lost

And my emotions threaten me again.

I want, I want...

I hope they feel me here

As I feel them.

Generations together

In one place.

And my boy,

The great grandson,

Who carries them

Further forward still

Into the future;

In spite of their absence

In his essence.

I am moved by my bringing him here

Deeply.

Unseen connections made

By association only.

***

I will remember this day,

The living in it,

The reliving in it.

The reliving of the dead in it.

***

Visiting my home in Wales is a treat for so many reasons. It is a beautiful part of the world and as someone who has seen a lot of the world, I feel I am qualified to comment.

There is history here as well as beautiful scenery and there is my own personal history too. There are some places that figure more than others and two of them are mentioned here.

Wales is now full of empty churches, once the centre of the community and now, big stone structures, romantic in nature but neglected without collection plates to refresh them.

I was struck by an impulse to take my son to see the church where I got married to his father and where I first met God. My maternal grandparents had strong connections to this place and my paternal grandparents are buried in the graveyard.

Revisiting it was poignant and needed to be memorialised. What better way than to write about it? I always write for me but it's quite nice to publish something that means so much to me and share it.

Thanks for stopping by. If you do read this very long poem, I applaud you. Please do leave a comment, like an entry in a visitors' book in a dilapidated old church.

love poemssad poetry
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About the Creator

Rachel Deeming

Mum, blogger, crafter, reviewer, writer, traveller: I love to write and I am not limited by form. Here, you will find stories, articles, opinion pieces, poems, all of which reflect me: who I am, what I love, what I feel, how I view things.

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (8)

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  • John Coxa day ago

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this wonderfully, moving elegy with me! To misquote Michael Shara, there is something about the call of the mystic dirt of home. I have written many pieces about the pull of my father’s birthplace in Sardis, Mississippi. Your description of the churchyard cemetery reminds me of the Sardis cemetery. But what really surprised me was your words ‘Generations together In one place.’ It reminds me of something I wrote in All That Remains - … the forgotten sounds of laughing youths spilling out into the hot and languid atmosphere: her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren gathering together in defiance of time. In your words, the things we have in common become clearer. I absolutely loved this poem and feel like in you I have discovered a kindred spirit.

  • Hannah Moore3 months ago

    Stunning. The landscapes, the connectedness, the crumbling and continuation of passing time. Just a stunning piece of work.

  • Hannah Moore3 months ago

    Just realised how long this is, so I'm pausing just yo say, stanza one, beautiful, stanza two, my heart is with your heart. Now I will read on.

  • Gosh, this whole experience was so emotional. Your imageries were so vivid, I felt as if I was there too with you. I'm so happy you memorialised this into a poem ❤️

  • Naveed 3 months ago

    very powerful poem that will resonate with many people.

  • Lana V Lynx3 months ago

    This was quite an epic poem of identity, an ode to your roots and places that made you. Very well done!

  • Celia in Underland3 months ago

    I am teary eyed . This seems to me like the very essence of hiraeth; I don't think I have ever felt it as profoundly as I do right now. Chapel was the universal centre in Nantgarw but times changed too fast 🤍 Beautiful as always and thank you so much for sharing x

  • Shirley Belk3 months ago

    Rachel, beautiful tribute to those who went before you. "I hope they feel me here As I feel them. Generations together In one place. And my boy, The great grandson, Who carries them Further forward still Into the future; In spite of their absence In his essence." My favorite part....so much respect.

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