POETRY

'Spirit of Land and Sea' by Amanda Reid

In AD 60, the Roman garrison of Britain, led by Suetonius Paullinus, attacked Anglesey, in Welsh, called Ynys Mon (pronounced 'Un-iss Morn').  The account of the event depicts a most bloody and murderous attack by the Romans. 

The Roman writer, Tacitus, wrote; 

 

"On the beach stood the adverse array, a serried mass of arms and men, with women flitting between the ranks.  In the style of Furies, in robes of deathly black and with dishevelled hair, they brandished their torches; while a circle of Druids, lifting their hands to heaven and showering imprecations, struck the troops with such an awe at the extraordinary spectacle that, as though their limbs were paralysed, they exposed their bodies to wounds without an attempt at movement. Then, reassured by their general, and inciting each other never to flinch before a band of females and fanatics, they charged behind the standards, cut down all who met them, and enveloped the enemy in his own flames."

 

According to Tacitus, the island was home to a considerable population and also a haven for British refugees from the Roman invasion.  The attack was aimed at removing the Druids from Britain once and for all, to wipe out any resistance to the Roman occupation of Britain. 

 

The following poem depicts a possible experience during that dreadful encounter.  

THE MASSACRE OF YNYS MON

 

She stood a lonely sentinel against a windswept sky,

Her heaving breast did shudder and a teardrop pierced her eye;

She gazed across the crashing sea, a cauldron of despair,

The salty spray did sting her face, the wind whipped up her hair.

Through aeons they had travelled from where their hearts were born,

Then come at last upon the pearl, the sacred Ynys Mon;

For ages past the secret way, the knowledge and the lore

Had seeded in that blessed isle, a testament of yore.

And those whose lives were daily spent upon that potent land,

They carried forth an ancient truth which few could understand;

The more the preciousness of that since Albion, forlorn,

Fell to the men of Caesar, thus leaving Ynys Mon.

 

The isle could not be taken by any natural force,

But fifteen hundred men of Rome and each with sword and horse.

What earthly peace had gathered there, what hope had been reborn,

Before the eagle raised its head and butchered Ynys Mon.

For thus the choughs in tumbling flight, they called as if to mock

The spirits of the slaughtered, upon that blood-soaked rock.

The great majestic raven circled slowly overhead,

To survey the heaps of bone and flesh, and then consume the dead.

 

The woman of the island, none but she alive,

Standing on the solid cliff, desiring to have died.

Her beloved, he did stumble in the thickness of the strife,

His final act heroic, he saved his lover's life.

Those who did not die by sword or blackened in the flames,

Were rounded up and herded, compounding all their pains.

Like sheep the soldiers drove them with no weapons to defend,

Their spiritual harmony no usefulness did lend;

Like sheep the soldiers drove them from the cliff into the sea,

Mothers, children, babes; killed by indiscreet degree.

 

The woman on the cliff-top surveyed the speckled foam,

Like the waves her swollen tears for she had lost her sacred home.

She lost her only kindred, of her one true love bereft,

For he was as her right side, and she was as his left;

He had stumbled from the battle with a black and putrid wound,

To see his lover herded to where the cliff-top loomed.

Too late he reached the place where Caesar's men had cast her down,

His lasting hope to find her, he scanned the lower ground.

And there, at last he spied his love, alive and yet unharmed,

Clinging to a grassy knoll, trembling and alarmed.

Then even as the shadow of his death grew ever near,

He struggled down to heave her up, diminishing her fear;

And in the moment she was saved he gasped for one last breath,

Thus as she clawed upon the bank, he tumbled to his death.

 

She stood there cold and lonely, for everyone was gone,

The sea behaved exactly as it ever since has done.

But through her prism-vision she could see him standing near,

A refraction of the sea-cast light, thus he did appear.

He spoke once more unto his love, a whisper on the breeze,

From the timelessness of feeling, he called across the seas;

"I who long have loved you as the summer loves the corn,

Would give my life a hundred times to safeguard Ynys Mon.

Alas, my love, alone you stand, the knowledge you possess

Is everything that matters, in spite of your distress.

So, live, my love, and keep the flame of wisdom burning true,

For you alone can tell the world the secrets that we knew."

 

'Beech Trees' by Amanda Reid

The following poem was written in an altered state of mind immediately after a 'walking' Shamanic journey. 


This is achieved by creating sacred space and attaining an altered state of consciousness as one would for any usual Shamanic journey, with drumming and breathing.  Then, instead of lying down to do the journey, walk out into Nature for the duration of the journey, whilst in an altered mind state,  and return to a safe place at the end to bring yourself back to a daily state of mind, closing down the process.  This is something to be carried out with someone else present to be a minder.
 

In the case of this poem, my journey was a walk through an ancient woodland near my home. 

 

To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of the resulting poem.  It contains some strong visual imagery that is provocative of the magical and ancient woodland in which I walked, but the poem lacks clear narrative, making it somewhat difficult to appreciate.  It is, more or less, a long ramble, somewhat dripping with adjectives....the work of my 'trance mind'?  Although, I have worked on it further, to a small degree, afterwards. 

 

It didn't occur to me consciously when I first wrote it, but it seems to have an overlay that resonates to experiences and feelings connected to some difficulties during my earlier years, which appear superimposed throughout the 'woodland' imagery.

 

I suspect Roald Dahl wouldn't like my poem much, he famously said in a letter he sent to a short story writer looking for advice; "I have read your story.  I don't think it's bad, but you must stop using too many adjectives.  Study Hemingway, particularly his early work and learn how to write short sentences and how to eschew all those beastly adjectives.  Surely it is better to say "She was a tall girl with a bosom" than "She was a tall girl with a shapely, prominent bosom" or some such rubbish.  The first one says it all."

 

Don't you just love the man!  Inspires me to try haiku and apologise for the following feast of adjectives.  Sorry, Mr Dahl.    

Walking Meditation through a wood

 

Boundary oak, still, grey sentinel, bordering the liquid night,

Domain of lucid route and passage.

You stand at the threshold beyond the tide of seasons,

Your sweet, pungent litter breezes crisp and slow;

Shuddering and rumbling your heart-raw song of ancient lament.

Burgeoning genesis, devouring the passage of abused decay.

Deep-rooted past, twisted and bound is the brooding prey,

Resonant the womb, feeble the drone of frail vulvic birth;

Hollow is the threshold that spans the fierce arboreal girth.

 

A hush descends upon the ivy-hidden earth;

Time caresses the flanks of a carved purple crag,

A crack opens in the rhythm of the lonely brook,

Its weak trickle emerges from the archaic cavern.

Feeble birch saplings softly span the solid stone portal

As the rill murmers and mutters its sensuous lull and hum.

A lintel leans through fog and manifests itself, denied;

A presence, endowed with lyrical silence, beyond the final wayside.

Deep and damp the brim, its fusty flow reeks, undeterred.

Pass by the brave, evolving course, look back to hear the honey whisper'd word.

 

Solid is the dream that draws me down the track, interred,

A primal tomb, a door, a spoken slit in sod and stone,

Bound beyond the border, I pass its droning sting,

Where darkened crows of muted hue are jaunt in playful skies.

At the threshold, desire's scars bring hope, as waving woods conspire

To barr my soul, though strong I stab and soar in thoughtless thrash,

A moment close, the doorway, open-mouthed, bleeds gaping sap;

The wound is weak and haze endures its gilded trap.

An open block, a barrier that permits no lock, nor shade, nor shut,

But prick and scratch and cut, and cease to nourish flavour in a look.

 

The fragrant fungi stand and flourish in the silent, sovereign rook,

A tump whose brink is musty, lush with lust and taste,

The gap of years, the quarry, quick to hatch and make majestic move.

I am confined to fringe and flimsy-faced I glance, a grumbling clod,

Cushioned green, the fruit feast wallows musky in the booming heat,

I make my fruitless search where clover grows, inhaled within the vision of the verge,

A melodic heady whisper seeps into my breath, the edge expires within the end of earth,

And stream-scape rides its pitch as though in intercourse,

Whose guardian comes to generate the flow, whilst nurture seeds the sacred source.

I consummate a higher yore and bite and gnaw its root,

I roar and rock the seal, but still the plug of soil moves not.

 

Plain now, the rustle of the oak as she embalms the nuts of last years' rot,

A waving portal, potent at the rim, in agitation closed before the task began,

Hushed and dense, the oak becomes awake to breathe, illumined, through the mouth of time.

From here the past is gone, time's vision once alive in stone and light,

A momentary glimmer where the hallow manifests upon the flowing track.

The seed is sanctified, the womb of sentient force unfolding vast,

I chase away desire, denied the mask of solitary day and endless night,

Where honey's leaking fragrance dances thick, a storm of spore takes flight,

Aroma's balmy birth, the amber draught ignites the soul of solar flame,

I close the door, endowed with raindrop's song, and step beyond the game.