Of that first visit, no boots, town-boy clothes
I remember the track, the mud, the smell;
unwashed bodies, sheep’s wool, manure.
As you go off the road over the branch line
there’s bush where she used to hide wellingtons
before walking high-heeled to the village.
The track to the farm began by knotweed
then over the bridge that had once collapsed
under the weight of the bread van.
It meandered past the watercress bed
by the field heavy with grass and clover,
in the shadow of the gorse-bristled tip.
There was another gate by the dung heap
that fed the many-branched Crab Apple tree
whose fruit gave such delicious, amber jelly
and ancient grey-coated Elders
with crumbling limbs, shining black berries
to make pots of quivering, exotic, gel.
Through hens and capons the cockerel,
we parked in the yard of huge cobbles
three-sided by byre, barn and house
that had stood square against wind and rain
unchanged for three hundred years;
grey, dour, reliable and secure.
Here bats swooped into summer’s night,
dashing, leaping funnel spiders
hid deep in cracks of lichen-scaled walls.
An old tractor needed one oil to start,
another to run. I rode it one year,
turning hay with a great flailing wheel
later helped load bales to an ancient flat trailer
then unload them into the tall Dutch barn;
my muscles and hands ached for days.
Mam-gu would tell me of her memories
sitting on the skiw by the beige-tiled fire
tired, sockless feet in old worn wellingtons.
Tales of Willie Maes Bach’
twelve children in a house with one room
a ladder to climb to bed.
The undertaker, drunk, stayed one night,
the farm was woken to his shouts
when he found the fleas and they him.
And the man with no arms smoking
Woodbines balanced on his shoulder
who would walk alone by the river.
The games played with inflated pig’s bladder.
Her son running, from one person to another
opening and shutting an eye in his hand.
The pig’s sty – twlch, as solid as the house and barn,
is now full of nettles, the stone trough empty,
no pig, no mochyn as she would say.
She told me how the pig would scream
as it hung in the barn – the chains were still there,
then butchered on the crude pig bench of wood and iron.
But she didn’t know why there was a monkey puzzle tree
in the middle of the petrified, impenetrable orchard.
with its waves of brambles, nettles and butterflies.
Today there is no roof, soon the stones will fall.
The giant cobbles are hidden by herb willow.
The little brook’s gone but not the Crab and Elderberry.
Maes Mawr will soon be a memory
just like Willie Maes Bach.
© Anthony Fisher February 2002