from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday 18 November 2015

afterwards (poem)

Saturday 14 November 2015

I’d been doing a lot of nothing – hours gazing at all 
three species of sparrow come for crumbs on the chill 
flagstones; watching the bare limbs of ash jubilate 
at the play of breeze in their topmost twigs, where 
a clump of keys does a good job of miming ‘blackbird’. 

Or I guess this is nothing; after yesterday I suspect 
it may instead be everything. I’m still alive: earth 
beneath my feet remains solid; no mesh has simply 
let me fall through as if my life doesn’t count. 

Winter broke today; winds reared above the hills
and trampled their way through the forest.
Though the morning was blue, the cold had come in.
We didn't want to stay cocooned in our Britishness 
but didn’t know where to go either. We’d wanted 

a day out, but not this way. It was a comfort, though, 
to visit that dolmen, Ti Ar Boudiged; to track the slender
tensile thread of continuing humanity back 5000 years,
to remember that we don’t have to forget. It was 
a comfort to talk to the living, Bretons and French
alike. So when we met the man at the gusty top of the hill

we spoke of everything else: the chapel, the land, 
the Breton language, the nuclear power station 
at the edge of lake and what a strange marker
it is on the earth-current alignments below us, 
of how Louis Quatorze trashed the woodland to make 
his warships. Then we were silent and I didn’t know

how to speak of what had happened because
how can you say ‘I’m sorry’ in the face of the scale
of it all? But I said it’s a hard day for France
and he smiled grimly or perhaps sadly and nodded 
and looked away, and I liked his dignity and that we 
two strangers had shared a conversation across borders.

I can’t believe it’s right to make poems from others’
misfortunes, though I know we too need release.
So this is not a poem about tragedy, but about the living. 
And it’s about how at the top of Mont St Michel, 
not the island one but the one in the Monts d’Arrée, 

where the dogs were buffeted nearly off the side 
of the slope, a storm so fierce I couldn't see 
blew us empty from the inside out. 

© Roselle Angwin 2015

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