Far up the estuary sands two runes
Stoop to rout the muck-besotted clams.
In bee-sharp rain their shapes are snarls (yes, men,
But of what sort, what age, what … sex?) We know
That code, the squiggle that men make far off,
The motile jot that makes a man. At Dylan’s loft
Braced all-white against the wooded bank
Like some girl shy at a giddy dance, we see
Such a code unscrambled, broken, cracked:
Tilted books and china spaniel on the mantel.
Details like the spots in newsprint pix:
His aged mother’s crutches in the crux
Of walls look medieval, oak and leather
A barbaric prosthetic, next plumped yet meager chairs.
Colors withered. The knick-knacked rainlit room
Fills with his recorded chanting. And down
The conker-strewn lane, the blue Boat House’s floor
Holds crumpled sheets of paper, Dylan’s words
We assume, wadded within like blasting powder
Awaiting detonation. Here the mysteries
Of the river Taf, the water sandbrown as a pipit,
Down to Laugharne castle, up through sheepy hills
Beaten by a shroud of rain, cromlechs
(Trees?) across the bay, aslant, reflect
All traversed his mind and out his pudgy hand.
The squiggles the man made way off in that
An hour away, my scrawling
Fills a book amid the cairn-topped hills
And skittish pendulous rams, the howling calves,
The moos of autumn gale. From nearby Nevern
Saint Brynach often climbed to Carningli’s top
Where Bronze-age men had set their cryptic stones,
And he communed with angels. What did their visits
Prove? The cloudful ocean shimmered, woods
Wheatwaved in seawind. Could he or they detect
The farmers pacing fields behind the flecks
Of oxen? Opposite Brynach’s Mount of Angels,
Bathed in sheep-black mist across the valley,
Slabs of boggling weight sleep on each other
At Pentre Ifan, five thousand years on their ferny
Quilted hill. What we know is someone
Kept the dead inside these stones and covered
Them with more. We’ve solved that but we suffer
Still the rune of death. The graveyard peppered
With slate stones etched in impenetrable Welsh.
Their fishflat faces going slowly blind
By beastly weather, the squalling past and future.
At buzzard dusk, the strapping lad and pooch
Herd in the cows, spot-curdled and deliberate.
This is no legend but prosaic capitalism.
His father’s father and et cetera worked these slopes,
May well have raised Pentre Ifan’s rocks, or lain there;
His name, Lewis, gluts god’s acre at Cilgwyn.
We see the pointillism of dairy life, of Cymru,
The lovely lambs that go to feed the folk,
The cattle frothy at their stalls to ease
Balloonpink udders while, next our tidy house,
Calves loudly hunger in the stone-walled byre.
Maybe we’re the angels, having flown
This far, looking well on these old towns.
We saw his china dog and blessed it, bought
Postcards to keep the shrine lit up and healthy.
By our false but cozy fire we lunched,
Last looks from farmhouse windows at Carningli,
And I left my erodable code on paper thin
As Dylan used, one foot each on earth
And infinite. Then up the cow-wide track
We drove toward fog-runed sheep gone loose on rocky
Soil. Here there was no view, no distance,
Little future, just an endless dusk.
I could hear the clipclip of front teeth
Visiting threadthin grass below the megalith.
*Originally published in the defunct Seattle magazine Jack Mackerel (2000).
Sean Bentley‘s work has appeared widely if not frequently in magazines and anthologies. His collections are Grace & Desolation(Cune 1996), Instances (Confluence, 1986) and Into the Bright Oasis (Jawbone, 1976). He’s been a technical editor and writer since 1988. He coedited Fine Madness magazine from 1986-2008. An erstwhile photographer, his blog can be found at eff-stoplocal.blogspot.com.
Jayne Marek‘s photos have appeared in publications such as Camas, Sliver of Stone, Gyroscope, Central American Literary Review, Peacock Journal, New Mexico Review, Blast Furnace, and Gravel, among others.