‘Telling Secrets to the Walls’
In the brickwork we suppose there are memories.
Lately, feet stop to observe the fireplace.
Lit, it must have been warm in this husk.
There must have been eyes peering through slats
in the upper terraces. When a court, dogs
would have squatted on the straw, women would have brought
their quarrels with neighbours. For killing another’s hen
you will pay five pfennigs. For beating a man without reason,
six strokes of the lash. For stealing…
The house up the hill is made of the same stone
as the tower, as if each man decided to take
into his home his own kingdom. Minerals and ores
tapped from the base of a tor, a frack in the footings.
This carving had stones for eyes. Glass, probably.
A wooden plinth. Here is slate hewn from the quarries.
Cattle in the fields. If you can brave the seasons –
the rivers run through with mud – the land here is passive.
Spring never came to this country before the hunt.
That morning, there were cuckoos nesting in the castle walls.
Up the hill, the magpie with the rosary flew to a turret three foot deep.
There had been a meal. The table in the great hall
half-furnished. We ate with doors open, listening
for the crank of a bridge, the men at watch in the bailey.
Before him there was nothing but gorse and berries.
The red ones for birds, the blue for kings; bleeding juice
on fingers, flushing mouths the colour of bruises.
The last time I saw him he was haring uphill,
burning time along the lower paths, furious
as the tide is furious in this sea.
I never should have left my bon rêver.
Never should have skirred the Channel.
Trust no one. Tell secrets to the walls.
When the sun rose the day the children flew the nest,
she had been a long time absent. Had sat tight and calm
in her house of walls; bricks pinning her in, cement
sealing her lips, plaster smoothing her hair into locks.
Each morning she had lived the day ahead.
The breakfast-set table, the uniforms laid on beds,
their tails tucked in, collars down, a goodbye kiss.
She smiled in rings, nodding hello to the women
twitching at curtains, following paths to wine bars,
food stores, pubs serving tapas. She ordered wine
and caught herself inside: eyes and hair,
her mouth against the rim a purse of wishes.
She lost herself the day the kids left with her name.
She searched for her in dreams, forgot her upon waking,
thought she saw her once jumping from the castle keep:
sunflower bright, a rabbit-hole, an Alice of a woman.
You can read how Tracey wrote these essays in an accompanying essay, which can be found here.
Tracey Rhys is a poet, freelance writer and copy editor from Bridgend. A Literature Wales Bursary recipient with an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University, her first pamphlet of poems, Teaching a Bird to Sing (Green Bottle Press, 2016) was a recommended title in The TLS in its round-up of Michael Marks Award submissions for 2017. She has been published in journals including Planet, works closely with Cardiff theatre company, Winterlight, a subsidiary of Company of Sirens, and her poetry has featured in numerous stage productions as monologue and libretto. She was recently a writer in the Literature Wales/Cadw project, Weird and Wonderful Wales, in collaboration with the artist Pete Fowler.
© Tracey Rhys, 2018. Images © Pete Fowler, 2017.