Afagddu’s Sorrows


Oh bone bird mother
do you not see my skeleton on the beach?

Do you not know which cormorant I was?

Do you not know how many stones I ate?
Do you not know of the sorrow of plastic I choked on?
Do you not know how I swallowed enough poison
to save the world but it was still not enough?

Whatever I did I could never gain perfection
with my oily wings, my puddling feet,
my shuffling look of misery.


When I fought I flew into
a blind unchannelled rage like a primeval bird
and no-one could bring me back, could call me back again…

thus I was better as an attendant demon believed malevolent.

I could have been a bard if I had not sung the wrong songs –
the antithesis of the music of the tongue, disharmony, un-cynghanedd.

If my words had not creaked like a broken wing beating and beating
up above as I went about picking up loose pieces of words
that had been discarded like the limbs of dolls
and sad squashed teddies.


In my childhood I had no hug, no cot, no mobile, no talking abacus,
and my mum did not leave the television on.

I didn’t really get to know the village where I was born
down beneath Lake Bala from which only
a harper and robin escaped.

I was more interested in the secret tunnel
between the worlds into which I could drag my ‘belongings’
and keep them safe – the rubbery Wellingtons,
the scribbly marker pens and notes.

Bala has always led to Tryweryn –

to the sunken villages and the empty beds
into which I climbed longing for mum and dad,

to the empty post office, school, chapel, chapel house,
to the cemetery and the new memorial chapel.


Black, ragged, bloated on November nights
I cannot remember my birthday but only the birthday
of my sister and how this was celebrated with whistles and balloons.

I instead was tarred and feathered and pecked to death

until I was rags and banners of intestine
and of course the cold dry bones,

until the door was opened
and I was bidden go.

Oh bird bone mother
if only you could see me now –

I am flying high beyond perfection.

Gatherer of Souls

I have been where the soldiers of Prydain were slain…
I am alive, they in their graves!
– Words spoken by Gwyn ap Nudd in The Black Book of Carmarthen XXXIII

Spring is here, daffodils
amongst the headstones,
flowers on the cenotaph
grieving summers of war-

shells shattering spirit paths,
ditches filled with corpses,
a perverse test of love
for brave young fools

and you being liminal,
battle rage and compassion
on the blood soaked fields
where banshees wail

gathering the fallen
from amongst explosions,
returning to Prydain
wracked and torn.

Spring is here, yet in
Annwn’s long autumn you know
the weight of the battle dead,
the sorrow behind the veil.

War memorial in Penwortham