Poems from The Edge

DECEMBER 2019 POEM FROM THE EDGE

My current home is in Cwmbran, a town between Newport and Pontypool in South Wales. Cwm is Welsh for ‘valley,’and bran is the Welsh word for a raven, or crow.  Cwmbran is popularly translated as Crow Valley, or The Valley of the Crow.  My view is that  ‘raven’ would offer our fine town a greater dignity.  But Bran was also the name of a legendary hero who crops up frequently in Welsh mythology and is prominent in the Mabinogion.  Blaen is the Welsh word for a valley head, and Blaen Bran resembles a cauldron, a receptacle associated with the legendary Bran.  Older local tradition has it that that the name really means The Valley of Bran, that legendary hero whose head is buried beneath the Tower of London. To me, this is a far more satisfying translation, especially as a nearby grove of trees resembles a torque, that heavy gold necklet worn by ancient Celtic chieftains.  My poem argues the case:

Blaen Bran

Misty lies written in symbols

and mistranslations nailed by steel

to the valley floor. A hero’s

torque etched in trees; a whispered myth

lost on the breeze. The morning mist

boils up like steam from a cauldron

sculpted by ice, beneath blue life

cut short by nibbling sheep above

cooling adders sleeping beneath

the sun, peeling away the fragile

lace, unveiling the virgin’s coy

face, tears streaking the sunken cheeks

to fill dead waters brooding for

want of work, and crows conceal a

hero’s name, cackling away his

fame, exchanging glorious myth

for coarse mundane  mediocrity.

 

© Ken Davies 2017