Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Alabaster Thomas



There's never enough time, is there? -today is National Poetry Day, and apparently the theme is Heroes and Heroines. So expect to see gossiping shoppers swapping sestinas, commuters quickly composing haiku, mechanics mouthing sonnets under bonnets. Heroically.

Or something.

My poem that I've been working on is still unfinished, but here it is, because when I put it up on the blog it will take up a life of its own and almost certainly sprout a good final verse. It's based on an encounter I had over in Wales last month.

"But what one will remember about New Bethel is the crowd of monuments in the BURIAL GROUND, and in particular the presumptuous memorial to James Thomas 1901, bearing a statue which overtops the chapel roof”

John Newman, Buildings of Wales: Gwent/Monmouthshire


Alabaster Thomas

Startlingly luminous there in the evening sunshine,
Mr Alabaster Thomas towers high above the tombs,
His haughty gaze fixed north to Pen y Fan on the horizon
Across New Bethel's rooftop cast in crepuscular gloom.

St Tudor's congregation saunter up to Mynyddislwyn;
Or sheep, come down for shearing, clatter down upon their way.
His gaze remains averted; other flocks are all alike to him
Intent to watch his chapel folk until the Judgement Day.

The crowded graves below him are both even and gregarious;
Grey Pennant slabs that huddle in the lee of the high wall.
Although his lofty pedestal is draughty and precarious
He scorns to turn his collar up and fears not the fall.

He has seen the hilltop slagheaps spread and grow above the pitheads
And the coal that fuelled an empire go to Newport Docks by rail
And the grass that spread and blanketed the slagheaps and the sidings
And the fires of Blackwood's foundries flare, and flicker out, and fail.

Rust upon the iron railings, creeping ivy on the masonry;
The roots of rosebay willowherb caress the resting skull;
The worms by now have long since tried that long-asserted dignity
Where the mouse that eats the blackberry takes refuge from the owl.
With the setting of the sun departs the glow of Alabaster-
He's just a deeper shadow now against the wheeling of the Plough.
Cars on the dual carriageway bring shoppers home from Asda
For dinner with the telly on then up the pub for after,
Time please, then car doors slamming, and the sound of distant laughter;
Then silence, and we say "Goodnight - but just for now..."


by the way, thanks to the wonder that is Street View, you can stand next to the chapel. But you won't see the sunset that Alabaster and I saw



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