R. S. Thomas

ManafonHave I had to wait

all this time to discover

its meaning – that rectory,

mahogany of a piano

the light played on? What

it was saying to the unasked

question was: ‘The answer

is here.’ The woman was right;

she knew it: The truth china

can tell in a cool pantry;

the web happiness can weave

that catches nothing but the dew’s

tears. The one flight over

that valley was that

of the wild geese. The river’s

teeth chattered but not

with the cold. The woman tended

a wood fire against my return

from my wanderings, a silent entreaty

to me to cease my bullying

of the horizon. There was a dream

she kept under her pillow

that has become my nightmare.

It was the unrecognised conflict

between two nations; the one happy

in the territory it had gained,

determined to keep it; the other

with the thought he could kiss the feet

of the Welsh rainbow. I was shown

the fact: a people with a language

and an inheritance for sale;

their skies noisy with armed aircraft;

their highways sluices for their neighbours’

discharge. If I wet my feet

it was in seas radiant but not with well-being.

I retire at night beneath stars

that have gone out. I stand

with my friends at a cross-road

where there is no choice. No matter;

that nightmare is a steed I am

content to ride so it return

with me here among countrywomen

whose welcome is warm at the grave’s edge.

It is a different truth, a different

love I have come to, but one

I share with that afflicted remnant

as we go down, inalienable to our defeat.


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