And now that I was finally here,
I stood at the doorway.
And all that was left was the doorway:
Made of stronger wood than the door, perhaps.
Sheep wandered in and out
And foxgloves rose in place of flames.
The bed where Hen Flaen* collapsed, drunk,
Had fallen with the wormy joists,
Heaped and tangled with the roof’s blue slates.
And now I was finally here, my features fitted:
While holding wide the gate at the lower farm,
An old man looked past my dreads, my t-shirt and my modern shoes –
‘Hen Flaen’ he said, pointing.
And three generations dropped away.
This poem was written on a course at Tŷ Newydd that covered a range of ways in which existing works of art can give rise to new poems. This is the most original piece I wrote on the course, the starting point being the line ‘I stood at the doorway’, provided by another attendee. The poem describes an actual event. Someone I know went looking for the ruin of the farm where his mother was born, and was recognised as a descendant of ‘Hen Flaen’ on physical appearance alone.
To read more about the whole course, see Tŷ Newydd’s blog.
*‘Flaen’ is the mutated form of ‘Blaen’; ‘hen’ = ‘old’.
Country people in Wales are often nicknamed after their farms.
Image ©estate of Ken Walton 2017. Words ©Susan Walton 2017