Kathleen Thomas

From: “The Prologue”

We stumbled backwards to the west and dug ourselves in,

Overwhelmed by the ‘not us’ of alien conquests,

Voicing our ghost tongues to say:

 

 But we are…yet we remain…

 

We speak from beneath the soil, our blood whispering under earth,

Holding fast to the memory – the glimpse of ourselves kissing the bark

and loving the shimmering scaled Lady.

 

Such a long way down,

 

Plunging the cauldron down, forever down into the dark well of ourselves,

waiting in desperate hope for the splash of substance at the bottom.

 

We are…

 

It’s in the great forgetting, where memory comes in momentary fragments

of woad, of torques and eyes streaming tears for the passing of beauty.

 

We live out this death by ourselves,

reliving the loss through each generation,

and know we can never come back.

 

So we sit in denial of our eradication,

word-weaving and reciting the incantations of the ancients,

sifting through our shattered inheritance for pieces of ourselves

as we quietly bear witness to the relentless invasion of ‘not us.’

And the water in the well sinks further and harder to reach.

 

Cofia’r iaith, cofia’r ysbryd, a’r pridd yn dy waed                      Remember the language, remember the                                                                                                                   spirit, and the soil in your blood

a’r dail a plû yn dy wallt.                                                                 and the leaves and feathers in your hair

Côf.                                                                                                                                                                  Memory

Pwy ydyn ni?                                                                                                                              Who are we?       

Rhai weithiau rhwyn cofio                                                                                           Sometimes I remember

a teimlo’r cryfder unwaith eto                                                                    and feel the strength once again

a gwybod                                                                                                                                               and know

efallai dim ond am eiliad                                                                                   perhaps only for a moment   

y wynfud yn flaenlaw yn fy’n enaid                                                       the bliss at the forefront of my soul

 

We were beautiful. Truly.

You will never know how beautiful we were –

and even we can barely reach that place in ourselves any more.

 

We staggered for a thousand years,

dragging our entrails through holy ground,

and now stare stupefied at a world we no longer belong in,

Yet a world made poorer by our passing.

 

I have loved my blood tongue with all my heart,

even though words and breath fail her

as she sinks deeper into the dark waters of the well.

 

Lady, you have been loved.

 

From: “The Prologue”

They can almost remember, but not quite: as the old can forget their lives before the grave, and forget the names of kin; sitting by the fire, feeling there’s something they must find, if they could only remember what it was they lost, so they frown in puzzlement at the world, begin to speak, but no longer remember the words.

So, it is with the passed.

Sometimes they leap back in another shape, but even then neither side is quite sure it’s them.

Memories are the dust in the air, or a thousand new-hatched fish mixing with a thousand more, till what’s yours, or someone else’s, is uncertain in the vast shoal of shimmering memories swirling downstream.

…Time swaps places with itself; the line that divides what is and was isn’t real, for what was still remains, layer upon layer, seam upon seam, like the cliffs at the headland where each new storm uncovers memories like messengers from a far land still speaking.

 

From chapter 15: “MAIR.”

Mair lived alone in a ramshackle wooden hut on the outskirts of Pennard, away from people, and nestled among the sounds of Bishopston woods. She protected her solitude like a mother. Now in the late autumn of her years, she could barely remember being any man’s wife, as if the memory was someone else’s, and not hers. She could no longer see his face from this distance; could not remember the feeling of that love or even if it was love at all. Someone else’s story; someone else’s life. She could not even remember the child she bore beyond the feeling of a smile and the sweet tugging in the secret depth of her ancient heart. She knew where she was buried; her child, and would sometimes walk to the spot, and lay her hand on the ground to remember it was real: she once had a child.

 

From chapter 19: “The coracle Dream”

 

There are people who live here and with the spirits – that other here that lives with us, beside us, like two stories told at once, one in plain talk and the other in whispers just at the edge of hearing, but just as real and true. And these people become seers or healers and are wise with a sight that ordinary folk lack; they learn to be whole both here and there while others get lost in the space between and cannot hold themselves in either world and fall into madness.

From chapter 10: “The Passing of Twm yr Haearn.”

 

Twm yr haearn was dying.

 

The twinge in his side had turned into an ache, gnawing at him till it became a shadow in the corner of his mind, clouding his thoughts. And he would break off mid-sentence, grimacing when the fangs sunk into his guts or he wavered at the anvil, mid-stroke with brows drawn low, panting, to rock and sway like a boat adrift staring at unseen things and counting out the beats till the jaws released him and he was himself again…more or less. But he knew, and the soul in him knew he was on the winding path downward to the passing. He also knew  it would be a hard walk as each bite lasted longer than the last; he faced the dark way, writhing to the grave, counting himself into night.

 

And Pennard knew too.

 

And news travelled faster than people, fast as crows in that mysterious way that news can jump from one mind to the next without words, soul to soul in a long chain across the land. So no one was surprised when the stranger came who looked like Twm but not; standing quietly at the forge door, cap in hand, with the same grey eyes as Twm in a younger face.

 

About the Author

                   

I Grew up with Welsh as my mother tongue, but have lived in English for decades. Worked
in the arts (film industry – costume). Am in the process of writing my first big story…by the
seat of my pants. I have no idea what I’m doing, only that I have to finish what I started. I’m
using all the tools at my disposal, from illustration and collage to thinking in one language
while writing in another. The story is a love letter to my homeland.