MAM-GU AKA Elizabeth Mary Rees

We stood by his petrol pumps
looking towards the farm
Mr Williams and me
talking of Maes Mawr and Mam-gu.
She was a fine woman.
Strong enough to toss us boys
into the hay wagon.

Elizabeth Mary
I worked the farm; my father drank all day,
the boys from the New Inn would fling him
into the cart for the horse to bring him home.
This is written in the History of Pont-y-Berem.
Whenever Arthur sang I would quiver in beauty,
his maleness filled me with excitement.
I tripped into motherhood
and my belly was filled with Mair.
She came with black hair, his eyes.
Six months later they made me marry
and Arthur changed into my husband.
Each day I’d walk five miles down from Maen Gwyn
to meet the fine boys of the mine and we’d stroll
past river and autumn hedges full of fat sloes
dark as her eyes,  Rowan as red as her blood.
Past where she waited for us by the stone twlch
sitting on a low wall. Her smile, her smell, her eyes
would light every fire in my body.
I sang her into my embrace.
Then she was pregnant.
The Mine
had been shocked into stillness.
Low buildings of crumbling red stock,
a concrete bath where the dead
could be hosed free of dust.
A discarded,  hooked dish of iron,
no longer black with sticky soap and dust.
The long tunnel sloped down to the coal
Arthur had mined, its way now barred
by an iron gate shaped exactly to its size.
Arthur had once walked here to escape
Maen Gwyn, his four brothers and sister.

Mam Gu
Now my once sweet feet are calloused
cold in these old, hard wellingtons.
The air bites at five before dawn
when I rise to break coal, light the fires.
The cows are warm in the byre:
Angharad and Daisy, seven others.
They tell me my mother used this wooden stool.
My father put in a machine.  I don’t know why
it never worked. Anyway we like this time; eh Cariad?
Yesterday’s beer keeps her husband in bed.
She’ll make him tea some breakfast;
keep it warm on the range a saucer on the cup.
Each morning, each evening she’ll roll
a half filled churn to cool in the brook
running  by the yard.  Hours of lonely work
for just ten gallons of milk.
Mam Gu
Oh.  I don’t mind, I’ve always done it
the milk cheque’s mine for my marrow fat peas,
Glenghettie Tea, cake and the Western Mail.
Lead in the water from the stone curved  well
blocked her thyroid, led to bloody flecks
blocking her mind but…
at seventy, she could hold high in one hand
a great bale of hay, carry it ninety yards
to her cows in their stone barn.

The time came to leave, she refused to go
sat in a chair in the centre of her home,
filled the room, the house, the farm.
She’d grown into the stone.
Mam Gu was Maes Mawr.
When she left
it died.

© Anthony Fisher February 2010

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