For a long time and increasingly, I have been overwhelmed by my own inadequacies and failings. A futile and hypocritical position given I’m seemingly incapable of overcoming them, but there we are.
The small neighbourhood in which I live is not a microcosm of the city or region as a whole but a place where each member of the community is a success and succeeding in life. They are kind and confident, focussed and competent. It makes moving about amongst them hard when you know you don’t measure up and that they don’t carry any darkness with them.
I am a daydreamer and drawn to places where the rocks and wind seem to speak clearer than the voices of society. Feeble escapism I know, but I’m not the only one.
I’m fascinated by the role of the landscape in history and prehistory. Its high and inaccessible places were sites of ritual of retreat- take for example the habit (pardon the pun) of early Celtic monks eke-ing out materially meagre but spiritually robust lives atop mountains or on wave-bound islands.
This poem is, on the surface, about a Welsh mountain- a small one that barely deserves the title mountain, but it’s prominence in the landscape was a draw for prehistoric communities and Dark Age Christian spiritual pioneers alike. For want of a better idea I called it ‘Mountain’.
Thorn tree faces down the flinty stare
Of a Welsh Winter’s sky. Last year’s berries,
Boon for raven and crow, cut to black
In a wind of frosted knives:
Last year’s blossom, last season’s bounty;
They cannot last.
Take sustenance instead from the rocks,
From this tower of gale-bound silence.
Like the Saint who knew to rest his strange cap
On the bare-boned high places, and build a wall
Against the worst of the whirling air
With chinks enough for the cold to cleanse,
Exhilarate, enlighten. The thorn,
Blasted to its essence, worn to the shape of storms;
It’s strength is its scarcity,
it’s magic rooted in centuries.
I want to retreat to the eirie,
To run to the heights. To be rock,
To be mountain, to be wild,
To be still.
Polly Oliver 2018