(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:

I am.


The howling dingo emptiness behind me

Always at my heels

Chasing my wheels.


God is an abstraction

Anthropomorphic attributions are idolatrous


But necessary

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

Black letters

Fingers black with ink.


Tom inspired my father

My father became a journalist


A matter of record now

The echoes have died

But not

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)