The Forest at the Back of the World

Leaning Yew

Yng nghysgod yr ywen wyrol
saif y goedwig yng nghefn y byd.

In the shadow of the leaning yew
stands the forest at the back of the world.

***

Easeful
easeful the forest.

Easeful
easeful its mansions perfected.

Where we grow
where we grow
where we grow
and decay no longer.

Easeful
easeful the forest.

***

Fairy Lane August 2018

Do you remember walking or riding through a forest
down a path that never ends with sunlight dappling the shade
and crunchy leaves and woodland winds
and a feeling of infinite freedom?

Do you remember sleeping beneath the boughs
on summer nights or watching the passage of the stars
whilst the blackbirds continued to sing past midnight
into the early hours never ceasing at dawn?

Do you remember the feeling of unease,
as if someone was trying to shake you awake from a dream,
turning back over, dreaming, dreaming, dreaming on?
Does it trouble you that these memories are not your own?

***

Easeful
easeful the forest.

Easeful
easeful its mansions perfected.

Where we grow
where we grow
where we grow
and decay no longer.

Easeful
easeful the forest.

***

Branches Fairy Lane

In the perfection of memory they walk
through the infinite houses
room for everyone

the clatter of factories forgotten
the feuds between families and gangs
the arguments of politicians.

In the perfection of memory they walk
through the infinite houses
room for everyone

the hours behind glass and bars forgotten
free as gods or ghosts drifting
like pollen or birdsong.

In the perfection of memory they walk
through the infinite houses
room for everyone

until the butterfly on the shoulder
or the lizard emerging from the mouth
calls them to move on.

***

Easeful
easeful the forest.

Easeful
easeful its mansions perfected.

Where we grow
where we grow
where we grow
and decay no longer.

Easeful
easeful the forest.

***

Yng nghysgod yr ywen wyrol
saif y goedwig yng nghefn y byd.

In the shadow of the leaning yew
stands the forest at the back of the world.

Leaning Yew

***

*The song repeated three times is based on lines from ‘The Birdsong of the Wayreth Forest’ by poet Michael Williams in the Dragonlance series, ‘Easeful the forest, easeful its mansions perfected / Where we grow and decay no longer, our trees ever green.’
**With thanks to Greg Hill for the Welsh translations.

A Glimpse of Pure Sunshine

The final prose poem in Melissa Lee-Houghton’s challenging confessional collection, Sunshine, is called ‘Hope’. Hope is scarce. The subject is a dream akin to a horror movie where the narrator is kidnapped and her companions are beheaded one by one, ‘blood gushing like red schnapps.’ When she is the only one left alive for a moment she thinks she’s won. Yet the time arrives for her to hang her head over the metal sink for the man in the white surgeon’s mask with the scalpel. ‘Hope’ ends with the following lines: ‘Although my psychiatric worker said it’s more than unusual, I died in that dream, and I went somewhere. Part of me remains there, happily, in the glamorous glare of lost hope and a sadness spun of pure sunshine.’

This poem struck a chord because two years ago I had a horrific dream ending with the suggestion of an afterlife. I was a soldier fighting in a jungle and had been captured to be executed. As I faced the firing squad, I knew I was going to die. I called to Gwyn ap Nudd, my patron god, for help. Filled with superhuman strength, I broke away in the form of a heavily muscled pig-like warrior. However, I was tracked down and recaptured. When I consulted Gwyn from my cell, he told me he couldn’t save me again. I must send my soul into the hazel, the beetle and… a third thing I can’t remember when it came to my execution. The next minute I was walking amongst hazel trees with a friend, speaking with complete calm about how to get my soul into a tree and turning over the leaves to find a beetle. I was utterly convinced about the survival of my soul, the calmest and surest I’ve ever felt. That reassuring feeling, like a glimpse of pure sunshine, remains with me to this day.

Fairy Lane