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
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.
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
Known but not known.
The essence is the same with every visit:
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
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,
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.
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?
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,
Driven by emotion and history.
The handle turns and we enter.
This place was torturous as a child-
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.
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
The grime does not disturb me
When I disturb it.
I fill with sadness at your decline
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
Bell-ringing grandfather, proud and dutiful-
This is where he sat.
He loved to sing,
His outline before me, his farmer shoulders
Broad and strong.
A simple, loving, happy man.
And there, in the dust, on his seat,
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.
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.
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,
Not just in the place
Although I am rooted here
In so many ways,
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.
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
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.
About the Creator
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.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions