After Procopius

But on the north side… it is actually impossible for a man to survive there even half an hour, but countless snakes and serpents and every other kind of wild creature occupy their area as their own.’ – Procopius ‘The History of the Wars’ (6th C)

North of the Wall I am running
from Roman civilisation
from the ones who build straight roads
from the ones who stand in line.

North of the Wall I am running
to greet my madness
a whirlwind of serpents at my heels
torn-out leaves in my hair.

North of the Wall I am running
amongst mad women
streaking bare through the forest
shedding my second skin.

North of the Wall I am running
with every wild creature
a halo of birds around my coming
open-beaked with soaring wings.

North of the Wall I am running
with the hunger of the wolf-pack
howling and slithery-jawed
erupting into fur and paw.

North of the Wall I am running
with the madness of gwyllon:
shadowed men who come as wolves
the greater shadow of Annwn’s lord.

North of the Wall I am running
until I don’t want to run any more.
In our grove of pine there is silence
and the heartbeat of steady awe.

North of the Wall I stop running
and turn to face my challengers:
roads running on forever
countless rows of spears and shields.

From North of the Wall I return
cloaked in feather and claw.
To breach the gap
and bring down the divide

I am running back from the Wall.

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11 thoughts on “After Procopius

  1. Lorna is an especially evocative poem. The tempo of the words sent me running with you. Experiencing, fleeing, facing, returning. Superb work!!

  2. Ha! I see why you pointed me to this! it’s an almost perfect rendition of what i have been reading and thinking; that transition from the civil to the wild and all that that entails as with the lupine imagery too…I love this 🙂

    If I do a Gwyn anthology after the Grey mare one then I really must see about asking permission to include this as the opening piece

    1. Thought you’d like it, Lee! Funny, I could see it on the opening page of something, but neither of the ?books? I’m working on at the moment… I’d love for it to open your Gwyn anthology 🙂 Very honoured.

    1. Some-where, some-time, in some-other-dimension north of the wall… not sure where yet… Maybe some sunken area of Caledonian forest whose only remnants are in the tree remains deep beneath the soil?…

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