“Trip to Bountiful” – part 4

The view to end all views.jpg
Hay, Monmouthshire – the view I’ve been waiting for

I have, for the first time, truly experienced the devastating wonder that is Wales. It is as though God made Britain first and then, everything else from spare parts (not that I can speak from context, or experience, or knowledge of any kind really). From the broad-shouldered Brecon Beacons, to the literary orgasm that is Hay-on-Wye, the city of bookshops.

Hay-on-Wye bookstore:cafe.jpg
A bookshop. A café. In Hay-on-Wye. What’s not to love?

From the Cistercian monastery ruins at Tintern Abbey to equally haunting and beautiful Llanthony Priory. From the seaside riches of Harlech and Llanbedr to the rough ‘n tumble Dolgellau.
From a fifteenth century teahouse in Ty Hwnt I’r Bont near Llanwrst to Snowdonia National Park in Beddgelert, Wales is a place of countless treasures. 

I’ve been here before, but not this close to the bone. I’ve learned what it means not just to drive a car but navigate it like a big ship through a tiny canal. I’ve heard horror stories of those possessing significantly superior driving skills to myself pissing themselves from stress on the very Welsh “highways” I’ve just driven. Now, to be fair, I changed before writing this and how would you know anyway?

More Welsh countryside copy.jpg
Beudy Bach, our perfect stay in Llanbedr, near Harlech

In addition, to drive a car in a place so utterly complex is to forego any certainty of directions, ETAs, the logical movement of traffic, expectation of driver largesse, and frequency of toilets. Throughout the UK, the puritan American spirit must learn to contend with the lack of excretory euphemisms.

 

Llanthony Priory 18.jpg
Llanthony Priory

 

A tiny thumbnail of a country it boasts as long a history as anywhere in Europe. Today, we said goodbye to Wales, and find ourselves in another enchanting part of Britain – Ambleside, in the Lake District. We stop here to catch our breath, drink a ton of coffee and write.

In the days that follow, our travels will take us east and north to Dunbar and Edinburgh. The deep connection I have to Scotland will require a host of other blog posts. Hence, for now, with Wales in our rearview mirror, I think poetry is the only song that will work. I hope you enjoy, and thanks for joining us on this ride.

Down in the throat of Wales

In the throat of Wales,

where light is sparse, then it is best.

This land of green trousers with grey hat,

hair coiffed in bluebells, tulips,

and yellow daffodils.

She is held in frames of arbour, where bristle-faced hills

are bred for poetry – Coleridge, Thomas, Wordsworth.

Down in the throat of Wales.

 

In the throat of Wales,

we pass the standing stones, God’s elder brothers,

and their eyes follow us.

Rain falls like sweat from the coal miner’s brow

while praying hands of hedgerow herald peace on every side.

A bleating sheep choir beckons eyes up to the watching hills.

Down in the throat of Wales.

 

In the throat of Wales,

down, down the Brecon Beacons beckon, swallowed down

where the green things live – down in the throat of Wales.

At the Blue Boar Pub, regulars and weekend

intellectuals hold out town secrets.

Practiced tongues wag in dark corners, breathing out suds

and gossip and recycled stories with fresh laughter.

Down in the throat of Wales.

 

In the throat of Wales,

at Hay-on-Wye – these streets are full of pages,

ten thousand dog-eared voices

tucked away on shelves and tables,

under arms and coat pockets.

American streetlights bow to clock towers, cheery pubs,

and weary stones. Long-drawn lines of primogeniture sing

the songs everyone still knows. And, the many-throated

happy-hour jubilee of a thousand years gone by

still steeps in the glow of candles,

wine-bright eyes, and cell phones.

Down in the throat of Wales.

 

In the throat of Wales,

the hills stand guard, where stone and memory bleed

the colours of the ancestors,

drawing their long and bloody shadows over Beddgelert.

The River Colwyn, host to muddy boots and hooves and paws –

I pause to imprint her banks of sleep.

Down in the throat of Wales.

 

In the throat of Wales,

Harlech’s stiff-shouldered castle juts out a jarring face

into Cardigan Bay, catching salt kisses

blown from the cold, grey sea.

Oh, where to wander in this wild and brooding land,

where friend is stranger – stranger, friend –

and all that ever wrung true hangs tightly

to the soft skeleton of a land made

from the stoutest stone, the strongest sheep, the swollen stories

of hearts that glow brighter than the smiles of children?

Down in the throat of Wales.

 

In the throat of Wales,

I place my ear next to her breast

to hear the consonantal tongue

make love to songs as old and wise as she –

where still, of all sad souls,

the blind man is poorest.

 

Down in the throat of Wales.

 

3 thoughts on ““Trip to Bountiful” – part 4

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