The now westering sun illuminates
the serried galleries of discarded slate.
There were once three thousand quarrymen
and ‘The Great Strike of Penrhyn’ – a three year
dispute. The owner, Baron Penrhyn,
built terraced houses with front gardens
for the few who had crossed the picket lines.
The first chapel was named ‘Bethesda’ (Hebrew
for ‘house of mercy’) – after the Roman bath,
near Jerusalem’s Sheep Gate, where ‘the man
was made whole and took his bed and walked.’
They named the slate town after the chapel.
As we drive on up the valley to the pass,
we can see, increasingly far below,
the river’s white waters and, suddenly,
three black horses skittish in the meadow
at the valley bottom, miniscule
like the woman in blue who walks towards them.
We pass a ruined cottage. ‘And thorns
shall come up in her palaces, nettles
and brambles in the fortresses thereof:
and it shall be an habitation
of dragons, and a court for owls.’ The height
of the mountains, the darkness of the lake
at the top of the pass, the size of boulders
the last ice age left are biblical.
Among distant ruins, we imagine,
too readily, both dragons and owls.
But we speak of the three black horses
and the woman in blue as a blessing.