Monday, 26 October 2015

A poem for Samhain

A voice from the Dark Age

Do thousands of black birds still gather
and chatter in the winter twilight?
Do you stand there now and stare,
keeping watch across the flattest lands,
from ancient tracks across the mere?

See the first crowds of shade arrive on far horizons,
massive clouds of darkness sweep the nodding reed beds.
Murmuration rises and falls, a dusky rumour,
and forms perfect changing shapes
against the coldness of a fading sky.

Trees are dense with this veil,
but there is a lightness in the air –
the whispering wind of a million wings.
Is this the only sound you hear over the ancient land,
as you walk the tracks across the mere?
Do the dykes still hold back the water,
are the lakes calm and clear;
do they mirror the early morning light
as you walk the tracks across the mere?

When you go to hunt for game,
are the swans ruffling in­­ reedbeds and
do the seedheads echo the surface calm;
and does the bittern’s boom carry across the flats?

Or does all the land still flood on the higher tides?
and are the tracks then lost below the seas?
When the waters rise so high are your boats ever ready;
do you like to go out to fish in the freshening breeze?

And is Ynys Witrin your constant reference –
the point of all beginnings and endings.
High above all waterlines,
does that sentinel yet watch over this dreamy land?
Do you feel us here?
Does that island even now hold our power in its hand?

Tell me this, come close,
are the veils always thin, do the crystals see?
Are the great stones silent standing,
do you guard that gateway by the old thorn tree?
Is the mystery of the magic still at work,
is there yet a wildness here?

Do the pilgrims ever come looking for their peace,
are they walking the tracks across the mere?
And do the monks live quietly in their caves,
are the hermits sometimes seen through the haze?

Do the springs rise again to give you sacred water
and do you collect it from the wells?
Is it calm and pure and does it heal your ills?
Does the stream pour over mossy banks
from the rocks where Brighed guards?
And does she forever inspire the poets
and give new stories to the Bards?

Do you meet to rejoice in the seasons here;
and the phases of the moon?
Is Samhain still the enchanted turn of year?
Do you dance with joy at Beltane,
walk the fire with lightest step?
Do you watch the flames of Imbolc leap?
Are the goddesses spinning the web?
Are the Pagan deities celebrated,
is there revelling and feasting here?
And do you still walk the tracks across the mere?

Ancient walkways created in the oldest time
still cross our watery space,
but are they yet there for you?
Do our worlds collide in this fantastic place?

Do you make to honour all your ancestors?
do you feel them in your genes,
are they there in your daily chores
and in your darkest night-time dreams?

Do you remember me?

As the days are ending and the veil is fine
do you seek out your kinfolk and honour the divine?

Do you still walk the tracks across the mere? Do you now
gather in the great hall to speak your poetry for all to hear?

Is Boewulf’s loud story told at your great feasting nights?
Do you long to hear those tales of the monsters and the fights?

Is the hall filled with voices, is there music and dance,
do they drink from golden cups; and do you look for romance?

And when the laughing is over and the dawn is here,
do you still walk the tracks across the mere?

*From a series, Landscape of Voices. The voice in this poem is that of a woman in who lived in west Wales and then Avalon around 650-700AD. While I was on the Somerset levels one day early in the year I tried to imagine what a person from that time would say to us if we could meet today. This is what came.

I was pleased to have this poem, which was written more than three years ago, accepted for inclusion in the 2015 Samhain Special (Part One), published by the fabulous Three Drops from a Cauldron. Part Two is also now available. Go here to read more:


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