Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Poetry selection

Today, for lack of any other inspiration, I'm posting a poem I wrote a few years ago. The form is the sestina, and the story is from the First Branch of the Mabinogion. The poem is from my collection Pryderi's Pigs and Other Poems.

Pwll Remembers

When night lies slow and heavy on the land
sometimes I wake, and memory brings back
like sound of voices raised in sudden song
the cry of hounds upon their quarry’s track,
a well-built hall, so high and wide and long,
the taste of mead, the touch of your white hand.

Indeed it was the work of my own hand
that sent me to that land beneath the land
disguised and held in idleness year-long.
Knowing no way by which I could win back –
the road he led me left no trace or track –
I spent my days and nights in play and song.

Sweet as high king within a minstrel’s song
I lived, and dined each day at your right hand,
the while along that strange dark year’s slow track
approached my bloody battle for this land –
for only through that fight could I win back
into the world for which I now did long.

But every night that year was hard and long.
I lay awake and listened to the song
of your sweet breath behind my rigid back,
the while I dared not even kiss your hand –
for wife you were to him who ruled this land,
whose magic set me on this secret track.

At last the year was gone – along the track
I rode to face that fight I’d wanted long
against the other claimant for this land.
And I rode gladly, singing some bright song,
gladly I took my lance into my hand,
and in the ford I flung him dying back.

Then I was free, and all my journey back
was easy. Sunlight shone upon my track.
I met King Arawn, smiled, and clasped his hand,
and he did vow to be my friend life-long.
My heart was high, and all the birds in song
rejoiced at my returning to my land.

Yet sometimes I look back when night is long.
The track I went’s now but a winter’s song.
I lost your hand to win again my land.


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