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Valle Crucis Abbey, Richard Wilson, circa 1760



Where willow stoops in curling shallows, May

stirs branches that creak like rigging or rub

like silk. The cuckoo sings its unsettling,

solemn roundelay. Sun gilds the abbey’s

west wall. The glassless rose window is a

blinded eye in a Romanesque skull –

indulgence in a wilderness. The Blood of

the Lamb coursed through the old ways of Keltoi,

Celtae, Celts. Time the dissembler leaches

the earth of language, artefact, intent.


A wall in the south transept was scorched by mishap

or mayhem. Dousing the flames, did the monks

break their vow? The Reformation empowered

even Trappists. Rulers destroy or endow

for glory. Defenders of parliament

effaced the cross (placed on a pagan mound)

carved to honour the Princes of Powys.

Even at the world’s furthest edge, even

beside an unkempt road through a valley,

was always a junction of opposites –

the classic, classical dichotomies

of the cerebellum and the soul, of

carapace and substance, tyranny and

learning. An oak tree, shaped like a brain, spins

the sun’s threads and is cleft, halved – fire and leaf.




© Copyright David Selzer
1 Response
  • Ian Craine
    August 29, 2012

    This is an excellent poem, David. It’s a place I know, and time has leeched the earth here of ‘language, artefact and intent’. Well chosen and precise words. You mention the cross ‘carved to honour the princes of Powys’. You must mean the Pillar of Eliseg, which predates Valle Crucis by a few hundred years. I did not know those sad Cromwellian iconoclasts had attempted to deface it. I do know that we are indebted to the great Welsh antiquarian Edward Lhuyd for the last reliable rendering of its kinglist.

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