Two Poems By Ceinwen Cariad

Silent Encounter in Cenarth

 

Grey threads through her chestnut curls.

She smiles, points across the valley.

 

A coracle, local-made to float,

carry her back to her past shades,

navigate, negotiate the mill race, the waterfall.

 

In Cenarth, all is as it ever was.

 

The rapids where she faced dire risks,

carried on and played her childhood games.

 

Skylarks dart and cry, twist with collies’ barks.

Streams chatter, incessant, over water-smoothed stones.

She nudges me, waves her thin arm and then

I see, my ruined family home.

 

She should be told I know. She braved nightmares,

gained courage to arrive here, intact, today.

 

I had forgotten that house was ever here,

in this real world of grass and rocks and slopes.

 

I see her face the blasted, empty hole,

blame herself for staying well away.

 

Should I have returned, before the roof blew off?

 

She fears my judgement, my love withdrawn,

but she should know, I was not abandoned,

like that infernal building, rancid and sooty-dark,

where she was once contained.

 

Sundew, by osmosis, pierces memory’s veil,

clears soup to consommé, splash-cleans my brain.

 

I, Mam-Gu will take her hand to hold, and fold

her in my frail arms feathered with affection.

 

Again, she smiles. Hers is the hand to hold.

 

I love you. I love you too.

 

Sara of Eilean Leòdhais

 

Maytime comes.

This, the first Spring I will not see,

since I parried with harsh Heron-man

(as he is widely known)

and he defeated me.

 

Heron knew I loved his child,

Sara. For me always

Sara, Sara.

Her cheeks glowed

by our peat fires, wild-eyed

since she’d spied

her forbidden Harris lad.

In love with him, so lost to me.

 

They come with their tairsgears

to the Bridge to Nowhere

 

Last winter Heron fished me

through the ice to marry Sara,

fallen pregnant by her faithless Harris man.

‘My girl has shamed me,’ said her father.

‘You’ll save my name, brave lad,

you’re mad for her, and now she’s yours.’

 

‘And what of Sara’s wishes?’ I cried.

Heron spat his phlegm upon the earth

and made me sick inside.

And my mind, though tempted,

swung to honour her,

‘I’ll never wed sweet Sara,

not without her full consent.

I see what malice you are made of.

You’re of the ilk of damned Blue Men

who murder in the Minch.’

 

And they come with their tairsgears

to the Bridge to Nowhere

 

Overwintered workmen,

sweat-soaked and tired,

pledged to trail the sky lark

and dig here for sun-warmed peat.

Sharp-beaked grey Heron

leads the peat-men’s gang today.

Here, where he boldly stood

furious to be gainsaid,

and bashed my brains out,

on a cold sedge bank.

 

And they come with their tairsgears

to the Bridge to Nowhere –

 

Will they find my corpse today?

These men who were my brothers.

Beware, good friends, the sight is stark;

in the dark, I do not lie alone.

Old Heron chucked his chick down

to share my shallow grave.

 

‘Away, boys,’ cries Heron.

‘Follow me to Garry Beach.’

His plan? To swerve them from our plot.

And yet still they stray nearby,

whether he wishes it, or not.

 

And they come with their tairsgears

to the Bridge to Nowhere

 

Sara’s ghost greets sore

and soon my kinsman, Donald,

pricks his ears and hears her cries.

 

He bends to dig down

into the earth

where our limbs,

entwined, are found.

Our features fixed,

still clear and strong

in acid, damp peat-soil.

 

My kinsman, Donald, weeps

and others gather round

our cursed grave.

‘What man did this?’ They rave.

Peat cutters’ muscles tense

and clutching knives

their fingers strain for vengeance.

 

They stand with their tairsgears

on the Bridge to Nowhere

 

Heron sweats and says,

‘Marauders, from the Norse Lands.

They must have come again.’

But Donald spies a hammer,

lying muddied near my side.

He thrusts it high, for all to see,

and howls, ‘This murderous weapon,

is marked with Heron’s sign.’

 

Heron’s soaked and shitty breeches,

lay his noxious guilt quite bare.

No place to hide, no lie to tell

to save him from his path to hell.

Young outraged peat-men circle him,

they’re roused to take his life,

and every stab is twisted twice

to brand him Lucifer’s sacrifice.

 

They strike with their tairsgears

by the Bridge to Nowhere

 

Once the Heron has been slain

the men exhume our sad remains.

They cover us in makeshift shrouds

made from ragged workmen’s clothes.

We are borne upon their shoulders

as they step out fighting tears

to trudge the lonely homeward path.

 

They march with their tairsgears

from the Bridge to Nowhere

 

They bless our stiffened bodies

and in honour of dear Sara

and respect for my lost love,

we are placed within one casket

and interred in sacred ground.

 

And still they come with their tairsgears

to the Bridge to Nowhere

 

Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in 2017.