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‘A Faith Community gathers, Conwy Hill, Wales’ and other poems

By: Stephen Kingsnorth

A Faith Community gathers, Conwy Hill, Wales

A ruby line, massed silver birch,
the purple-plumed ice stalagmites,
the russet bracken canvas backed,
warm signs, green-bottle conifers,
the cold winds ever interrupt.

Atop near hill, in silhouette,
some branches, high-sky summit stand,
an upturned broom for garden waste,
or carpet sweeper rotor brush,
so both to clean the mess we make,
and as we scan from pausing point,
see there, yet there and there again,
lone cones, one torch-topped bottle-brush.

We walk below the banking cloud,
grey bush, a lair of bouffant hair,
while forcing sun brings palette change,
as breaks the power of darking shades.

Beside a field, ridge bould with stone,
is this an earthwork, dyke or drain,
what pearl beneath, dead hordes or horde?
Far pinewood towers, farm swinging sign,
a single plaintive curlew cry,
as wheels around, what change of breath,
and what its course, and where it bound?

No paint or plate at resting point,
though more assumed, not mansion house;
but rot-wood bench for sanctuary,
satisfactory, stare landscape stretch,
loom or appliqué overlong,
the pilgrim climbers far to go.
Through foreground bones of elder death
watch strides, the journey and the goal.

Horse lip shudder, slobber shake, no
interest in shaped space above,
and where we walk on final legs,
pavement-pasted, the leaves affixed,
in last-stage compost, veined decay,
pretend dog foul, so change our course.

But what best course? And how decide?
And why we hear and who the guide?
When we arrived and manager
raised who we were and what about,
‘Extended family’? he posed,
and that sufficed, descriptive phrase,
of who we are, and Con-why meet,
of who we are, why Con-we meet.



The canvas, primitive, slate grey,
brush coal dust covering the strokes,
these men, all Jones, all drab, the same
Welsh miners stepping into cage.
Above, blanket, protective gear,
down, trap of generations’ fear,
bread, canary gas, clogging breath
in seams beneath mountains of slag.
The token, dull patina, palmed,
as yesterday and day before,
a number now, count down, count up,
hard hats wan weary, faceless, glum.
Fathers assume, want pitted sons
to follow, heaving, slack in lungs;
what kills below will die above,
as ozone helmet disappears.



‘Origami’, known, translates
‘folding paper’ – word mutates,
‘kami’ to ‘gami’ with unease,
rendaku tongue for Japanese.
Cutting, gluing counted cheat,
sculpted from one flat square sheet –
clean, unclean as Peter dreamt –
used engineers, packing, stent.
Cranes in flight, a tiger, suave,
hands create the diet of
paper animals for zoo –
less for food – it’s cheaper too.
On the ark from tree to shark,
wider seas, that wooden barque –
work your art, hold me, fold me
into your heart and let me be.


Slicing Onions

He thought it better, slough tough skin
that she had grown, in the know,
life would rough and tumble see.
But complement, she free to be.
He was surprised that she did weep,
imagined keen her sense of loss,
but tears welled up from tear of skin,
just one more layer peeled away.
Had he changed slides, his microscope,
the schoolboy study of that skin,
tears composed varied chemistry,
try crying sad and cooking cry.
Like snakeskin cast off in the shine,
best fresh apparel finding mate –
she had watched Adam’s apple gulp,
assume he himself was in control.
A blade had cut her to the quick –
that he should think his parting loss,
departure counted, her, as gain,
refining fire and he the dross.

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