On Learning Welsh

 

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On learning Welsh

Welsh
is a key to my childhood.

Every day I learn something
about myself and my upbringing.

It’s not the need to talk
so much as the necessity
of diving into myself
and mining my memories.

Brynhyfryd / Mount Pleasant.
Ty Coch / the Red House.
Pen-y-Bryn / the Top of the Hill.

This latter the house
in which I was born.
No room in hospitals
for war time babies.

All of my wartime family
born in the same in-the-country
Gower bed.

Three of my brothers
did not survive
those rough, household births.

I still bear the forceps’ scars.

And I still bear the scars
of carrying my brothers
with me all my life.

A long and difficult
and very private history.

But it’s mine
and I embrace it
and I love it,
with all its warts.

Comment: The photo is of the dragon in Kingsbrae Garden. I think of it as a Welsh dragon … Y ddraig Coch … the Red Dragon of Wales, but of course, it isn’t. Anyone can write easy poems: Twinkle, twinkle, little star … it’s the hard, gut-wrenching stuff that’s hard to put down on the page. My close friend, Margie Goldsmith, encouraged me to write this. Thank you, Margie. Thank you for caring. This is indeed my life ‘… with all its warts …’ It’s easy to wear rose-tinted glasses and see everything as ‘for the best in the best of all worlds’. However, it’s more difficult to grovel on your knees, in the trenches, and to come face to face with the stark realities of who we are and where we come from. Thank you, Margie, for helping me and encouraging me to do just that.

Duende

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Duende
Federico García Lorca

It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering teeth,
you stand there, silent, wondering … can I?
will I?what if I can’t? … then a voice breaks
the silence, but it’s no longer your voice.

The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark powers
volcanic within you, spewing forth their
lava of living words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, heart
by heart. Magic ends. The maelstrom calms.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow shell.
The Duende has left you. God is dead, deep
your soul’s black starless night. Exhausted,
you sink to deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the bottom of the bottle to save
your soul and permit you a temporary peace.

Comment: “Todo lo que tiene sonidos oscuros tiene duende / All that has dark sounds has duende.” Federico García Lorca (1898-1936). García Lorca, an inspired and inspirational vocal performer, well understood those dark artistic powers that rise from a combination of earth, air, and fire to possess artists as they weave their magic, be it musical or verbal or a combination of both. Those who possess it know that they never really possess it, for it comes and goes with a will of its own and possesses them, body and soul, taking them over. Deus est in nobisit is the god within us, wrote the Romans with their understanding of the power of performance. And they are right. Those who possess it are changed by it, no longer know themselves, turn into something other than what they are and becoming something special. “Ah would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us” (Robert Burns). But what happens to us when the wondrous gift is taken away, when drab reality takes over from the glory of the stage, the spotlight, the performance of the play? That indeed is the question. And the answer varies with each of us.  I look with dismay on the comedians who, for one reason or another, when deprived of their audiences, have chosen the darkest of exits. The hollow shells of the performers who have given their all are sad things to behold. The existential emptiness that is left when the powers drain away is difficult to live with. That is why so many, faced with this darkness, akin to St. John of the Cross’ Noche Oscura del Alma / Dark Night of the Soul, chose not to live. That is not a choice that I will ever make. And I encourage all my friends to wait, to wait in patience and hope for the light, the glorious light and fire of the Duende, the Spirit that will return, will pluck us from the depths, and will raise us to the heights again.

Duende

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Duende
Federico García Lorca

It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering teeth,
you stand there, silent, wondering … can you?
will you?what if you can’t? … then a voice breaks
the silence, but it’s no longer your voice.

The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, mouths open, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark power,
volcanic within you, spewing forth its
lava of live words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, heart
by heart. The magic ends. The maelstrom calms.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow
shell. The Duende has left you. God is dead,
deepening your soul’s black night. Exhausted,
you sink through deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the wine bottle’s bottom
that will save your soul and permit you peace.

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