Today we’re continuing a series of pages publishing the winning and highly commended poems in the People Need Nature/Young Poets Network “Ways to be Wilder” poetry competition, hosted by the Young Poets Network.
This is the fourth winning poem, mynydd y graig, by Eleanor Smith.
mynydd y graig
Eleanor Smith (20)
hill seethes with rain
bone festering with moss
wind scraping it raw
sweated and curled
with furze and fern
hill is carcass hollowed out
ribs holding the sky
buried under clouds,
only its shadow visible
like a whale underwater
invasions of plant life:
hill is bruised
with heather and gorse
hill is labour pangs, crystallized
hill was a giant once
hill has craters in its skin like you
full of rain
hill cracks like your voice does
hill turns your breath into clouds
makes your ribs hungry for sky
i remember when the night was green
several small wet stars were hanging from the white concrete balcony.
the sky was black. there was light in the leaves.
the rain was falling and i was in dolgoch again, where the sound was eternal,
from ledges, from moss.
i looked up and the sky turned purple-dark, gwrym as in middle welsh,
and the trees were black and i loved them.
the whole night smelt like a gift,
the great dark gothic church across the balcony was safe as anything.
i and the trees were the only ones awake to see the orange streetlights,
and there were leaves, everywhere.
the sea and a bitter wind
and the great swelling dark that shakes you
like a dog – your skin flickers –
you feel translucent.
the shine of it like a whale, this water.
it swallowed stars and they drowned.
how heavy the valley feels behind you
in all this dark.
you can’t see water-colours in the dark
but you can feel them in the sound.
wind in the grass, the cold all around.
an eerie treble soars in your chest, high and thin.
the tide is as big as the wind. as small as a wingbeat.
white spray lashing flicks a switch,
your skin lights up. it’s too small, cold and wet,
your lungs too light to bear this.
the wind gasping-cold, the beat of the waves
in the wrist of the rock.
crash-retreat-hold-release. somewhere underfoot,
rock, salt-scarred plant life.
the cold bite, the song in the dark –
breathe water, breathe salt
from whence cometh my help
the wind for my hymnal
the holy holy moss
censers flinging birdsong
the stain of heather and gorse
as light crosses the glass hills
the rain, the rain, the rain
the benison mist
thin streams like veins of light
god roaming the mountains like a lion
* * *
Competition judge Jen Hadfield commented:
This poem-sequence grows out of a wondering hush; it’s a praise-poem really, to the hill, and to the rain. You understand that white space and silence are as integral to the poem as its printed or spoken elements. In these forays of yours, we experience the elements intensely; your animal intelligence throws out wonderful images: the hill under cloud as a whale underwater; the hill and person twinned in their breath and marked skin. In the charged, near holy quietnesses between verses you allow your reader to draw close and to make the poem with you. This is poetry’s most courteous and powerful gesture.