Poem of the month

STEVE GRIFFITHS POET

The Horse's Mouth

 

On such a day among the stones and the shafts

among such shouts I could hear the eightpenny women

sorting the ore from the rubble at their trestles

with their hymns of the Revival rising

 

damping and diverting

till the Corn Riots of 1817

when grain was still exported from Anglesey

though there was famine:

 

nightly assemblages of persons

amounting to nearly 200

have kept the inhabitants

in a continual state of alarm

 

the anonymous title of persons

thus distanced from the interests

of alarmed inhabitants; the persons

of course were egged on by ringleaders

 

who were brought to justice,

having detained a vessel in the port

laden with corn, alleging its scarcity

in excuse for their conduct:

 

on receiving a six month sentence

they were very properly and very ably

admonished from the Bench;

the troops embarked for Ireland again.

 

Imagine the loyalties of eightpence a day

to the Cornish managers off the tall ships,

the torn hands and powerful forearms,

a yellow handkerchief knotted at the head.

 

Imagine the loyalties of eightpence a day,

the wages deducted by the Agent of the Mine

paid directly to the shopkeeper Greathead

his son-in-law, to encourage continence

 

and frugality among the labouring classes

who are not aware of what you and I

understand as moral guilt,

and filial profit:

 

I fancy I have as great a feeling

for a poor man as anyone, but justice

to the concern demands severity at times.

 

© Steve Griffiths 2018

 

 

POEM OF THE MONTH

 

My third Poem of the Month is another from my first book, Anglesey Material (1980, but written in 1976). Why such early work? I have been thinking about the work I reckon is worth preserving, perhaps, who knows, in a second Selected Poems. I've tweaked a number of those early poems, but I haven't touched this one. It's about conditions in Amlwch, the town I grew up in, which was once an industrial revolution copper mining boom town. It uses quotes from the early nineteenth century, courtesy of the Anglesey Antiquarian Society, and I am struck by contemporary resonances in the way language is used. Next month, something a bit newer.

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