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.


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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