With the stroke of a pen, they enabled me to write the story, gave a framework on which I could hang all manner of dreams and assumptions, inviting a search I never quite got around to making.
I wandered the beaches of Estoril in my dreams, stalked the avenues of Lisbon, looking for a familiar face, but found only ghosts.
With the stroke of a swab inside my cheek, a vial of saliva mailed, the story came apart, and a new story slowly unfolded, gone forever was Iberia, replaced by Scotland and Ireland, Wales, Norway and Germany, and my dreams were filled with the music of the bodhran and Highland pipes.
When you ask me of the sea, living, as I do, fifteen miles from the nearest ocean, it is not the sandy beaches of Hutchinson Island I recall, nor the crowded sandbox that is Fort Lauderdale’s beach.
If you ask me of the sea, it is perched on the horizon, far in the distance, looking out of the kitchen window, or perhaps that of the library, over the yard, with its deflated soccer ball, the fence, and finally to the Irish Sea, cloud shrouded at the horizon.
This is what Lloyd George saw each day, so it is little wonder eschewed burial in London or even England for this hidden estate in his beloved Ty Newydd in Wales.
First published in Dreich, Issue 10, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)
High on the battlements of Castle Harlech the winter wind cuts through me like scythes slashing the grasses in the meadows that roll out toward the distant, mute hills. The plaintive cry of bowmen whose bones are dust taken deep into the Welsh soil are whispers lost in the wing sweep of the circling starlings. I turn to the moss crusted stones and beg them to tell of all they have seen but they sit silent, defiant. It is only the occasional bleat of the sheep, grazing in the ill sheltered keep that sounds in answer. Ask us, they say, we have many tales to tell but the screech of the lone gull begs them be silent. In the dining room of the Plas Café stealing warmth from the coal fire I am the sentinel, ever watchful over the sleeping sea.
The small church is tucked alongside the narrow road, its moss encrusted stones bathed in the November sun.
The headstones in the churchyard lean askew, sagging under the weight of time.
The weeds sprout up answering to a silent call. We are here, they seem to say, to reclaim our own, and we shall do it in our own time, in our own way.
The sounds of the rushing waters
of the bloated Dwyfor river blanket those whose memories fade from the stone monoliths.
The yew, trunk overgrown with ivy, stands a sentinel between those gone and the sheep grazing the soccer field. The church is silent, stolid existing in that middle world between indifference and ruin.
Back in the house, the cat curls in the overstuffed chair preening her paws and haunches.
I fell deeply in love with her, I standing in a small jewelers shop in Bangor Wales on a November morning. In truth, cradling a small silver Celtic cross in my hands I knew then that I, taken that plunge within moments of our meeting and recognition was all that remained. II
We poets stood around the kitchen slicing vegetables and words, laughing at everything and nothing and occasionally peering out the small back window across the yard onto the now no longer distant sea. III
In the sofa in the library I wrote words that seemed almost alien to my hand, pulled by her smile, now 3,300 miles distant, under the watchful eye of the large orange tabby whose gentle claw edited my hyperbole. IV
We wrote haiku walking the ramparts of Castell Cricieth on a dank chill morning, staring down jealously at the tea house in the village below. V
Lumsden drove out from London to do a reading, opted to stay on a day, laughing as we, in turn, drew the knives across the whetsone
prepared the food for the impatient, smiling cook and the wine flowed into the evening meal. VI
Down by the Afon Dwyfer, at the end of the path to his old house, Sir David listened from beneath his headstone and had no arguments to dissuade me.
On the train back to Manchester I searched for the words to tell her how I felt. Picking up the phone words failed me but she heard my heart through the silence.