Poem of the Month: June 2011

Bessie Williams

Welsh Village
In memory I am always helping her
Hang out washing
As it slaps against my face,
Signalling an endless white challenge
Of non-surrender to the coal.
She battles the sheets next to me
With the quick courage of a wren.
Below us grey slate terraces.
Wet slowworms on the slopes,
Slip and coil around the pit.

Her house, a tarnished tent peg,
Banged into the hillside against the wind.
The garden a scrabble of cabbages and bramble
Where I saw my first wild rabbit.
The outside lav
Your feet visible under the door
As you sit besieged by bleach.

Her face unusual in her breed
Of long-jawed chapel women
Always had the bright lacquer
Of rouge and fresh lipstick
And gleamed with the allure
That sometimes comes with ugliness.

Her Welsh-English children,
Celts caught in the carefulness of the Home Counties,
Something wild in them
Like the rolling eye of the thoroughbred,
Ready to take off suddenly
Down the street.

Her port and lemon ashes,
Grit in the eye of a Welsh Methodist God,
Will blow around that hillside
Above the closed pit
And the grassed and landscaped
Heaps of slag.

© James Nash, Deadly Sensitive, 1999