Why Do I Paint Monsters?

A couple of days ago Tom and Nimue Brown invited me over to the weird and many-tentacled island of Maine and I returned with this poem, based on an evocative painting by Tom, about the intriguing Philomena Bucket, who is going to be the heroine in a new role playing game. Tom is responsible for the amazing cover art on The Broken Cauldron and Gatherer of Souls.

The Hopeless Vendetta

They say I am veiled as the paintings in my attic

that I keep my life concealed like skeletons beneath white sheets

that only hair pins hold me together and a spinster’s habits

that I am pale because only tentacles touch my heart.

How little they know what goes on in my secret place,

my haven, where I keep my paintbox, my paints, my easel,

which always tells the truth whoever steps from behind the curtain

into the frame and by the steady brush of my hand coalesces.

Why do I paint them? You ask. Why do I keep their faces

emptied out with a candle above as a nod to their puttering souls

lit without a single match by flames that grow ever brighter

as this island gets more hopeless and I grow wiser?

My life has not been easy. Read this in my downturned lips –

this would…

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Call for Submissions for Awenydd Anthology

Annuvian Awen - Awen Ac Awenydd

Awen & Awenydd are planning to publish an anthology on the awenydd path. This is open to anybody who identifies as an awenydd.

Contributors are invited to submit one or two pieces of writing. 1) A modern definition of how you perceive the awenydd path, describing how you came to and live it. 2) A piece of inspired writing, which may take the form of poetry, story, or personal reminiscences, or a mixture of these, based on experiences with the gods, spirits, ancestors, and the living landscape and its inhabitants.

Prose submissions should be 1,000 – 3,000 words and poetry a selection amounting to 500 words minimum. Please email submissions as .doc or .rtf to awenandawenydd@gmail.com with a 50-100 word biography.

The deadline is Friday 21st December 2018.

Any profits will be divided equally between contributors and contributors will receive a free copy of the book.

You can find our definition of the awenydd path HERE and examples of inspired writing HERE.

Drought Summit

My latest post on Gods & Radicals. After a drought summit was ominously called on August the 1st – Lammas/Lughnasadh/Gwyl Awst, an account of my journey to seek insights from Lugh’s Welsh cognate, Lleu Llaw Gyffes.


‘I see the reapers in the distance with their blades and the man in the combine harvester reaping nothing not far off’

From Lorna Smithers

Harvesting Dust by Lorna Smithers

I. Gwyl Awst

On Wednesday 1st August, Lammas/Lughnasadh/Gwyl Awst, a drought summit took place in the UK between the National Farmers’ Union and environment secretary Michael Gove. Due to the summer heatwave crops have been ‘wilting or failing’ and ‘livestock running short of grass and fodder’. To assuage this the Environment Agency have agreed to be more flexible with abstraction rights for ground and river water so farmers can water their crops and animals.

Is this a freak occurrence like the summer of 1976? Or, along with the trend of record-breaking temperatures is it demonstrative of man-made global warming and a weakening jet stream? Whatever the case, the holding of a drought summit on the day of our harvest festivals seems ominous.

Science can present…

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The Wishbone of the Lord of Desolation

Wishbone – A forked bone (the furcula) between the neck and breast of a bird. According to a popular custom, this bone from a cooked bird is broken by two people and the holder of the longer portion is then entitled to make a wish.’
Oxford English Dictionary

The Wishless

cry out from the city
where the long lines of cars
and the chugging of exhausts never ends.

It always 9am on a Monday and always the morning rush.

A woman with ruffled feathers is trapped in a lift going up
and down and up and down and up and down,
her image in her compact mirror setting
and sticking like hair spray.

A man wearing headphones
is convulsing like an electrocuted bird.

A manager is on the roof of a tower block
switching off his mobile before taking a final breath.

Oh city of flightless wingless birds how many wishes
have been tugged from your chests and left festering in backyards?

A man is flying now like a bird without a wishbone –
no lift, no ‘strengthening of the thoracic skeleton
to withstand the rigors of flight’.

“How can I help the wishless?”

The Lord of Desolation

“You must find the Wishbone
of the Lord of Desolation.”

I go through the fortress that guards
the mountain pass where the waterwheel
is turned by the river that turns time.

In the Land of Desolation wind
and sand scour the broken skeleton
of the Lord who is the desert land
and the scouring inseparable.

Each rib-bone is an archway
of the cathedral of a once mighty chest
from which the bellow of lungs has fled
to the tortuous winds and the heart
to a dull thud thud like a hammer
in the head slowly fault-lining
the small misshapen skull.

I look for the wishbone between
the neck and the breast – the furcula,
‘little fork’, fused to two scapulae
for stable flight, more lift when
the thoracic cavity is under stress.

The wish lifting the bird until the fall.

The wishbone is gone, stolen, leaving
the Lord wishless, fallen, desolate.

“There is nothing in the Land of Desolation.”

The Endless Scrapyard

The wind that exposed bones blows
back sand to reveal the endless scrapyard –
a sprawling conurbation of tyres, hubcaps,
headlights, broken wing mirrors, windscreens,
the ceaseless grind of the crushing machine.

I crawl over piles of pots, pans, sinks,
laptops, TVs, radios, catch my trouser leg on
an aerial, fighting not to be lulled to sleep
by the fishing forecast or driven mad
by the news or the canned laughter.

Ignoring messages on walkie-talkies,
not running from blaring sirens flashing
blue-and-red blue-and-red blue-and-red,
I reach the household waste and dig
down through the years throwing

away layers of plastic and styrofoam,
digging down to old shell middens and shards
of broken pottery, finding to my frustration
that all the wishbones have been stolen.
“Leave the scrapyard well alone.”

The Thieves of Wishes

I know, of course, where to find to them.

The circle is made whole – the centre
of wishlessness is in the bowels of the city
where brothels, slot machines, casinos,
temples to golden gods are found.

There, in the inner sanctum, they are gathered
around the Wishbone of the Lord of Desolation.

The floor is littered with broken wishbones,
empty bottles, dog ends, silver foil, faeces.

They are bare and empty skeletons arguing
over fake bank notes, gaming chips, the last line
of coke that gets blown off the table sending them
sniffing like desperate dogs amongst the debris.

All except the two who shot each other in the head.
Their skulls are shattered, jaws still jabbering.

White, obdurate, horrible, like a standing stone,
almost holy, it has resisted them completely.

“The thieves have stolen nothing but desolation
and broken everything except this wishbone.”

It is not hard to wrest it back from trembling
phalanges and evade their palsied gun shots as we fly
up, up, up, to where the thieves can never go.


I go through the city banging a pan,
driving the wishlessness from the wishless,
rousing them from their offices and pointing
them to the elevators that fly beyond the rooftops,
grabbing the flightless before they hit concrete,
granting them a set of wings and second life.

When we are assembled on a cloud at noon
around the Wishbone of the Lord of Desolation
the voice box of the wind announces the ceremony
is begun and the stars above nod their assent.

The bird-headed men and women play
xylophones crafted from the bones of their ancestors
and whistles that were once whistling beaks.

The wishless raise their voices recanting
every single wish they have never made remaking
them on the bone as to the exhortation of noise
it breaks and with a thrust of bony wings

the Lord of Desolation flies free and is gone.

The Wishbone of the Lord of Desolation Med




Nuada's Hand Fold of Stones Small

His hand was raised in the king’s stead on the fold of valour, a fold of stones surrounding the king, and on it the blood of Nuada’s hand trickled.’
The Battle of Moytura

Already they’re distancing the hand
from you – I see it against the blood red sky;
five fingertips, cold, pale, already turning blue
reaching for something… is it you… or is it
your sword, Claíomh Solais, which somehow
failed to pierce the heart of your enemy?

As they lay you on a herb-laden bed
I wonder if it haunts you like the shadow
of a menhir, not alive, not dead, still reaching
for something – a sun, a moon, a planet
invisible to mortal eyes that spells a destiny
that was not fulfilled as the blood dries.

So with Credne the brazier helping him, Dian Cecht the physician put on him a silver hand that moved as well as any other hand.’
The Battle of Moytura

I wonder what you dream as they forge
your silver hand – hammer on anvil, rasp of saw,
silent soldering of silver veins and electrolysis
of nerves on a night of thunder beneath an
oak, lightning leaping from fingertip

to fingertip sprite-like before you hear voices:
“Rejoice rejoice!” as it’s borne back reweaving
arteries, capillaries, veins, muscles, tendons, bones,
reviving like a blissful reunion to a dead bride.
I wonder if you dreamed it would be painful.

Nuada, his missing hand having been replaced, became king of Ireland.’
The Battle of Moytura

What power lies in a hand that makes a king?
Is it in the holding of a sword or a glaive of light?
Is it in a clenched fist or a silver finger wiping
a tear from the face of a beggar on the street?
Is it in the silver giving of your generosity?

Do you ever fear you are still dreaming
as you circumabulate your prosperous realm
making speeches of peace by day and by night
just glorying in the circling stars until called
back to the bloody fold of stones where
your kingship was made and unmade?

The nightmare of your severed hand fades
and all prosper in your destiny regained.

Gatherer of Souls

I have recently finalised my third book, Gatherer of Souls, a collection of poems and stories recovering the forgotten mythos of my patron god, Gwyn ap Nudd. I am  very pleased and proud to reveal the cover art, which is by Tom Brown. The publication and book launch will take place on Saturday 29th September (Gwyn’s Feast).

Gatherer of Souls FC

Gwyn ap Nudd is a Brythonic god of the dead and ruler of Annwn. In medieval Welsh literature he is depicted gathering the souls of slaughtered warriors from the battlefield, and is said to contain the fury of the spirits of Annwn to prevent their destruction of the world.

Fierce and compassionate, beautiful and terrifying, Gwyn’s ambivalent nature was unacceptable to Christians. He and his spirits were demonised. Gwyn was replaced as a warrior-protector of Britain by his opponent, Arthur, and the doors of Annwn were slammed shut.

After centuries of soul-loss Gwyn re-opened those doors and challenged me to ride with him through the war-torn centuries to recover his forgotten mythos. This book is a record of my journey.