Englyns on Auroch Skulls

Auroch Skull, the Harris Museum







Staring from the museum
eye pits glare beneath fierce horns,
haunted wells of atrophy,
gazes flee their blind prisons

back to Taurean eras
of thunder down the river,
reeking ride of reddish hides
steaming wild to the water,

skidding sudden to a halt,
thick bones trembling, muscles taut,
bullish courage killed by fear
of men’s spears and swift assault.

Seeing skies alive with darts
herd wheels, swings and departs.
Knees buckle and hocks collapse
at the agony of barbs.

Most escape, some are slaughtered,
five stagger, tidal water
rises as they struggle and sink.
Its cold brink claims their corpses.

Tides turn. Sediments heap.
Silt and till on layered peat
bury bones in sunken sands,
erred, abandoned for centuries

until wrested from repose
five bovine skulls are disclosed
by dockland’s excavation,
shivering blind and exposed.

Breezes trace visages bared.
Tongueless trophies taste the air.
Denied thunder impaled rage
hangs displayed, an endless stare.

Skull songs lie trapped in the eyes.
Visions burst where times collide.
Bones cry for wind-swept stampede,
aurochs released to the wild.

Auroch Skulls, Harris Museum







* This poem is based on a simplified variation of Englyn Cyrch, which I learnt from Robin Herne’s Bard Song.

7 thoughts on “Englyns on Auroch Skulls

  1. supernova says:

    Hi Lorna, I have the same visions and images of the river diversion and dock excavation into the ancient layers of the past. You will probably know but a bronze age hollowed out canoe was also found here and other artefacts, like many sets of deer antlers, which add to this tale.
    For me your poem expresses with much feeling and understanding of the atmosphere which must have existed at this time in our history. Expressing a true and almost mystical time for me as I look back and ponder the ancient tribes and how they lived here.
    Super piece of work Lorna, best regards James 🙂

    • lornasmithers says:

      Interesting. This poem came from a pair of shamanic journeys a year apart, the first of which the aurochs were alive in a sandy desert which I misinterpreted to be in America (!). The second time the desert was empty but for the bones and I recognised the skull. When I read the report I discovered the bones were found in a sandy layer beneath peat, clay and silt. It is certainly an area with a rich past which seems be demanding remembrance.

      Speaking of the canoes you might also like this poem: https://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/boat-on-the-marsh/

      Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Nic Ford says:

    Here’s your severest critic again… “Recalling taurine eras” is what I do when I remember an insomniac bedbound eternity after clubbing on too much Red Bull and vodka. ‘Recalls a Taurean Age’ might be less randomly associative for the reader, or maybe it’s just yours truly. I’ll leave the englynion assonances to you and your bardic conscience. N X.

    • lornasmithers says:

      Lol. Yep, I’m with you on this one. I recently discovered some taurine and caffeine shots left over from a stag do. Not good. I’m going to with ‘Taurean eras’ until I can think of a way of removing the rogue syllable. Cheers!

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