A heritage of a sort.
A heritage of comradeship and suffocation.
The bawling pit-hooter and the god’s
explosive foray, vengeance, before retreating
to his throne of sulphur.
Now this black-robed god of fossils
petrifier of underground forests
emerges with his grim retinue
past a pony’s skeleton, past human skulls,
into his half-propped up, empty, carbon colony.
Above, on the brutalised,
unstitched side of a Welsh mountain,
it has to be someone from somewhere else
who will sing solo
not of the marasmus of the Valleys,
the pit-wheels that do not turn,
the pump-house abandoned;
nor of how, after a half-mile fall
regiments of miners’ lamps
no longer, midge-like,
rise and slip and bob.
Only someone uncommitted,
someone from somewhere else,
panorama-high on a coal-tip,
may jubilantly laud
the re-entry of the exiled god
into his shadowless kingdom.
He, drunk with methane,
raising a man’s femur like a sceptre;
she, his ravished queen,
admiring the blood-stained black roses
that could not thrive on the plains of Enna.
I went to her funeral.
I went home that was not home.
What happened cannot keep.
Already there’s a perceptible change of light.
Put out that light. Shades
lengthen in the losing sun.
She is everywhere and nowhere
now that I am less than one.
Most days leave no visiting cards behind
and still consoling letters make me weep.
I must wait for pigeon memory
to fly away, come back changed
to inhabit aching somnolence
and disguising sleep.
What is more intimate
than a lover’s demure whisper?
Like the moment before Klimt’s The Kiss.
What’s more conspiratorial
than two people in love?
So it was all our eager summers
but now the yellow leaf has fallen
and the old rooted happiness
plucked out. Must I rejoice when
teardrops on a wire turn to ice?
Last night, lying in bed,
I remembered how, pensioners both,
before sleep, winter come,
your warm foot suddenly
would console my cold one.
Dannie Abse (Cardiff, 22 september 1923)