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Moving - Sean O'Connor

Dedicated to WW1 poet David Jones who fought with the Royal Welch Fusiliers.



Flagstone floor to flagstone yard, rain drenched between old stone house and older out-buildings, their crooked lines under slate and sky. The turning earth brought sunlight over long shadows into the valleys, shades that slowly shorten under sun. Night rain still dropping, dripping from old gutters.



behind the roof ridge

about to rise again

this morning’s sun



My travel companion stirs in his quarters. We will soon depart to journey a route we have travelled over the years, together, separately.


One more visit to the meditation ground between house and hilly wood. Sodden shingle on the rise before wet grass, a line low with flattening footsteps. Between branches, faded prayer flags hang light, limp on lines thin and white, wavering slightly.



half dark

the stone Goddess

her open lap



Bow low and pause. Something rustles in a tree. Crows call, and stop. Nearby, the sound of water.


Our light luggage into the boot and slow crunch of gravel sounds our departure. Friends old and new still sleeping as we manoeuvre through a potholed field to the road beyond. Along tight country laneways and passing silent village all rickety stone and small windows. Stopping at a T-junction we debate turning left to Aber to meet with Noragh Jones, but it is too far, and we must make our ferry.


Many times we have travelled this way, yet we are hestitant. The long stretch north is full of unexpected twists and turns. Dangerous bends, sudden narrowing of roads and unmarked forks will test and disorientate us.


An hour out we stop by deep woods, stepping to the edge of its silence. We sense her presence, scan the dim interior for any sign of her.


The queen of the woods waits watching. For each departing soul she gathers a gift from her domain.


To Ken Jones she gave a sprig of sage, fresh and wild from the woods. Subtle hue and taste from sturdiness, all beautifully blending.


She gave Bill Wyatt a single buttercup, its’ delicate simplicity, its’ quiet glow.


For young Kevin Gormley she reached high into an ancient sycamore and plucked for him a radiating leaf.


Before we wander on we wonder, what gifts she will give to us, and when?


We wind our way on along curves and contours of a half-wild landscape too wet for fire, but fired with battle blood. Idle pillboxes point pointlessly seaward, their guns gone, they face the setting sun unsung.


High stone walls on high hills that once were castles where demons sallied out to plunder and bleed, and to where they retreated into their folly, to starve: their songs unheard.


Tight by towns and tiny in townlands, pale chapels, few of pew, stand silent. In only some, songs of salvation and sweet Saviour are still sung, and meekly so. Many more now roofless, fonts full, rich in light, poor of sound.


We wind onwards, out of woods, roads roll over hills and skirt valleys green and rocky. Screed on hilltops, in bouldered fields, sheep graze on indifferently. Slow through dormant villages, listless hamlets, the odd lonely farmhouse. Hills rise higher, and ahead we glimpse the massive mounds of  broken slate that tower over the ribbon of deshevelled terraces that is Blaenau. There we stop, and in a slender side street we spot him:



under slate mountain

the oldest man in the world

    his fragility



The sun high in sky, his shadow small beneath him, and every shadow, everywhere light shines, now imperceptively growing longer. Moments later, todays only cloud, veils the source of light and shade and shadows suddenly subdued.


We will not see him again. Nothing in this turning world can ever be seen again. The illusion of the constant readily blinds. Yet there is a constant, the persistent flow of finality, the uniqueness of each moment, the only of the One, the Oneness of the only.


Todays only cloud moves as we journey on,  shadowed by steep slate. Passing a playground, Welsh speaking children at play, their voices fading.


Skirting a glacial lake, two old friends, moving in silence, suddenly surprised: Look!



the last tree

on the last mountain

the last sky

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