Rigantona’s Departure

I.
The fall of tempered leaves
stamps itself out mid-November
like leaf-shaped arrow heads

the yellow birch my old daggers

distant memories of the ancestors
contort the gloaming wearing

cloaks as grey as your shroud

and the grey spider who hangs
above watching you departing from
the darkness without a thread.

II.
I cannot imagine you Great Queen
as the young girl who was taken
against her will when the last leaf

fell by the hunter with the horns

and the ember-eyes headlight bright

before there were cars and cars and cars…
before with the leaves the forest fell…
before Annwn was known as Hell.

III.
You always knew where you were going
didn’t you? Needed no thread to lead
you back to your own home in his arms?

They knew that too – our ancestors

who offered up coins minted like leaves
in fairyland where money grows on trees
and crumbles likes us to grey dust.

IV.
I have no coin the leaves in my pockets
are old and withered as grey spiders.

When my fingers are dust I shall
follow without a thread shrugging into
your shroud joining the contours

of the grey-cloaked ever-marching dead.

The Hunt is Late

I fear
the hunt
is late
this year

because
of the green
canopies

because
of the unfallen
leaves

because
your presence
is just

a whisper
of an antlered
figure in

boughs
not yet shaken
by wind.

You are here.

You are here

I know it
by the black cat
who leaps

into my
arms trembling.
The quick-

ening beat
of my heart and
the shiver

of winter
rain falling by
lamplight.

You are here.

You are here.

I know it
when I recite
my poem –

the rain
falls harder your
night-drum

beating
within me and
the wood.

Shadows
stretch and prowl
yet your

hunters
remain dark to
the seer.

I fear
the hunt
is late
this year.

*This poem is addressed to Gwyn ap Nudd, a Brythonic god whose hunt traditionally rides to gather the souls of the dead on Nos Galan Gaeaf. It is based on my marking of the occasion by reciting my poem ‘When You Hunt for Souls in the Winter Rain‘ (in the winter rain!) for Gwyn in Greencroft Valley. I find it disturbing that some of the leaves are still green and many have not yet fallen at this time of year, which in the Celtic calendars marks the beginning of winter. (The Welsh Nos Galan Gaeaf means ‘The night before the first day of winter’ and the Irish Samhain means ‘Summer’s End’).

Green Equinox

This equinox
seems greener than before –
warmth, steam remind me of the Atlantic rainforests in Wales
where it rains six days out of seven glaw, glaw, glaw,
whilst protests sweep the planet like clouds
but do not quell the Amazon fires.

I win my green belt in a martial art
learning to harness light like photosynthesis,
undoing my roots, learning to twist, kick, turn, leap,
kicking back against body dysmorphia.

The leaves, all green-brown, are not yet
in their autumn splendour bursting into colour
like lollipops like coloured belts I don’t yet know the meaning of.

Leaves of ash fall, touch my shoulder, give me strength.

Heaven and Light, Joyfulness, Fire and Sun, these
are the names of the first three poomsae but the fourth
is Thunder and the morning after I win that belt

I’m awoken by a mighty roar and flash of lightning
illuminating my room, the altars of my gods, a broken mirror,
my laptop and the jam jar in which I keep my pens
painted black with yellow and red stars,

the rubber the only dumb thing like the doubts
that hold me back yet the eraser of my past.

The skies are broken glass and the stream a darkness
running from eternity as a voice from a martial arts film asks:
“What do you see in front of your fist?” “My destiny.”

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*‘Glaw, glaw, glaw’ is Welsh for ‘rain, rain, rain’.
**The martial art I am learning is Taekwondo and my instructor is Eddie Ellison.
***The lines from the martial arts film are from Streetfighter II: The Animated Movie (1994).
****All photos are my own except ‘Lightning Ground Storm‘ by Brandon Morgan on Unsplash.

Hey Ivy

Hey ivy,
Hey-ey-ey-ey ivy
Life force of this valley
Immortal green

Hey ivy,
Hey-ey-ey-ey ivy
Arriving from mystery
In a chorus of leaves

Hey ivy,
Hey-ey-ey-ey ivy
She gives us shelter
Beneath her palisades

Hey ivy,
Hey-ey-ey-ey ivy
She feeds us berries
When trees are bleak

Hey ivy,
Hey-ey-ey-ey ivy
We sing her praise songs
With ardent beaks

Hey Ivy

Oak Man

I am the voice inside an acorn.
I wear a cup shaped hat.
I tip it when I please.
I chatter in the hands of squirrels.
I buzz in wasps.
I whisper with the bolete.
I sleep. I spring.
I am sprightly. I am green.
I endure the push of each lobed leaf.
I carouse in the flush.
I take time to reach maturity.

I am the tree that holds the world.

I am the guardian and the gateway.
I come well equipped with elves.
I run in ants down many passageways.
I hollow out.
I don a skirt of armillaria.
I am mulch for the weevil and moth.
I am rot and I am canker.
I sink in the bog.
I am a sunk and empty vessel.
I am a coffin for your soul.
I am a boat to the eternal.

Oak and Feather Acorn

 

*Poem inspired by the gift of this acorn pendant from Lynda Ryder to the members of the Oak and Feather grove.

Birch Wood

Birch trees. Carr Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a land of ash with no future.
Out of the ice age they came, colonizers
Silver-black and delicately snake skinned,
Shedding white edged leaves on the ash-clad winds

And singing do you remember, remember
The ice age and peat and lost Vindolanda,
Sentinel cities and burying oaths
Enstyled on bright birch to placate the world?

And singing do you remember, remember
The strange black peal of the blacksmith’s hammer,
Street lights of amber and echoing roads,
Cities estranged by the gathering smoke?

And singing do you remember, remember
How empire fell that fatal November,
Civilized monuments crashing to dust,
Swaying white fields and the soft song of ghosts?

Silver-black and delicately snake skinned,
Shedding white edged leaves on the ash-clad winds
Out of the ice age they came, colonizers.
Their land was ash, with an unknown future.

Birch trees, Carr Wood

Maponus Chant

Sun set over Penwortham, December 2012From a night of long sleep
In the dark of the womb
Maponus Maponus
Awaken the dawn

With a beam of bright youth
From a wild shy horse
Maponus Maponus
Illumine the morn

In a smiling ascent
To a shining throne
Maponus Maponus
Rise high at noon

Emblazoning clouds
And falling through leaves
Maponus Maponus
Colour the eve

With a sinking yawn
To the arms of trust
Maponus Maponus
Descend at dusk

Song for Gwyn

Penwortham HolmeHero of hosts, perpetual wild huntsman,
Wind through the trees, in the leaves, in my blood.
King of the fair folk and darkest of demons,
Keeper of Annwn and Gwynfyd’s High Courts.

CloudsLover of Creiddylad, render of veils,
Mover of seasons rides billowing tides,
Black One of the Seas swings round and sails,
A flash of wild horses cross thundering skies.

Old railway bridge, Avenham ParkWith Dormarth traverses the wefts of the worlds,
Horse saddled bright, ancestral guide,
Wending a way twixt dead and live souls,
Maintaining the magic lest worlds be destroyed.