Learning Welsh

by Bethan Tyler

Rain I know, and the creep of fog
over hills. Each morning I watch it
advance, curly-haired and confident,
eating up the land, eating shale and
thick grass. The flocks turn, then
go about their business.

Here there were five tribes that we can
remember: Silures, Ordovices, Deceangli,
Gangani, Demetae. I was born with
the throat for their real names. It makes
the French words. Romains, renoncer.

Before the sheep there were trees
that chattered our alphabet. Ll, ll.
Wind pulling moss into dark shapes.
Rain, again, wood pigeons a-wittering.
A forest lived, fathomed, rhythmed.

I know forests like those. They were
my backyard as a child, miles away
from home. But in Wales the trees gutter,
give way to shrubs, then stubble,
fields and fields of flat gold or green,
gray when the fog rolls in.

I dream the old forms, their curlicue
shadows. Come back, come back,
I call, but my language is an invention.
Come back, come . . . The clouds seem
always to accommodate their silhouettes.

When the Romans arrived, they built
roads straight as bones. This,
the perfect geometry, angling all over
the wayward land, Roman soldiers
flashing their silver, announcing
their domain. The trees died and died.

Still I know rain and the creep of fog
over hills. This land makes a fabric of it.
There must be a word for this. I try
our alphabet, I cannot make the sounds.

Bethan Tyler is a disabled poet, former radio DJ, and proud kin of a cat named Suzie (named for Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne). Her poems have been published in the Chattahoochee Review and Fjords Review.