(Notes for a poem)
‘Stick to the bitumen and you’ll be right.’
Black ribbon road
Laid down by some Ariadne of the outback
Through the red dust
(Ancient fire, consumed to powder
By its own heat)
Inscribed like black letter law;
Reminds me of Moses in the desert―
O children of Israel!
Takes me back
To my childhood
Land of my fathers
Wanderers in a deforested landscape
‘Pilgrim through this barren land’
(Should I start singing Bread of Heaven?)
The burning bush
Burns without consuming:
The howling dingo emptiness behind me
Always at my heels
Chasing my wheels.
God is an abstraction
Anthropomorphic attributions are idolatrous
Because redemption is the human and the abstract (or divine)
Partaking of each other’s nature.
Prophets are inspired
A means to salvation by virtue of being human mediators of the divine (or abstract)
A variation on anthropomorphism.
Who is your prophet, O lost tribe of Israel?
(For so the Welsh were thought to be.)
“Speaking for myself, it was my Great Uncle Tom,
Or Rhondda Tom (as he wasn’t known; I just made that up).
The pinnacle of manliness in my family―
Teacher, politician, social activist―
In whom faith and scepticism wrestled,
Each making the other stronger;
In the issues of the day.”
The black economy;
Faces black with coal dust,
Their words hung black and biblical on the air, in their own ink of sound
And fell into print
Fingers black with ink.
Tom inspired my father
My father became a journalist
A matter of record now
The echoes have died
The fire in their eyes or on their tongues
The flames still dance in the darkness
Like the sunset up ahead
At the end of this long black road
Out of nowhere
(Painting: Three Generations of Welsh Miners, by Eugene Smith)