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A Fresh Start.

So this is the time to make a fresh start. 


One or two of my friends have given up alcohol (for the month), I'm sure others have made resolutions (which seem not to be talked about), but for all of us, the numbers are rolled back and we can each of us set off again, perhaps in a new direction.  

You've got to admire the courage of anyone setting off in a flimsy home-made vessel, with no equipment on a dangerous voyage, believing they'll get there eventually and be able to do something useful - possibly even encourage someone else to do something similar...


This is the story of one such, as true as I can make it.

It's a circular voyage in several senses - the vessel is circular; the destination is only a beginning, for it ends where it began; the willows start in the ground, grow but are then pushed back in; and the speaker sees himself as but a small cog, transmitting something much bigger and more powerful than himself.
I hope - dare I say believe? - that poetry can gather all this up, and is good at doing this.

Well, it's the outset of the year, there's a journey ahead - let's go...


A Circular Voyage

St. Cyngar of Llangefni
(c. AD 488 – c. AD 550)


I made myself this circle – 
willows thrust into the earth
then bent them to my purpose
back into the ground.

In and out the gunwale runs
threading round the struts – 
longer wands that meet and part.
To hold it all together

there are lashings –  
forty-two, and overall
to float me on the sea
a tightly tethered hide.

Currents carry on their conversation
below my willow frame.
Kind winds and tides unquestioning
give answer to my prayers – 

so I arrive upon the waves
ready to give thanks.  This coracle
I made myself bears witness
to the perils of the deep – 

from safety unto safety 
such dangers in between
are like gaps across the willows
where bulging skin is seen – 

my feet tread firm now on the ground.
Once more I thrust a stick
into the earth – which may take root
to grow again so that

it might be bent to suit
another’s purpose – perhaps
to build a boat like mine
of willows with a stalwart frame

which may support a thwart – 
a seat for someone who has tied
his lashings – all those forty-two –  
carved a paddle and gone forth

to find a hide to fit his craft – 
secured it well so waters flow
beneath him as in faith he leaves
to make another circle.



Admittedly, there are some quaint phrases - sometimes self-conscious, a bit pompous and unoriginal - but perhaps this adventurer was a bit like that himself.  By giving his actual dates - well, as near as we can - I've tried to demonstrate his reality.  He would have built - grown? - his own coracle, and certainly set off across the Irish sea in it, like a jumbly.

I find this organic construction of a traditional coracle intriguing.  I've tried to reproduce the smallness, the little steps involved in the small compact stanzas which sometimes link up, as if lashed.

I've never made a coracle, but I have pushed willow wands into the damp earth and seen them grow, then bent them and tied them together.  Even that is pretty remarkable.

But Cyngar's achievement is hugely more so.  That was some setting-off.

Whether we get where we want to, let alone whether our journey brings us back to where we began, and whether we do whatever it was we meant to do when we do arrive, I hope we all travel as safe as Cyngar amazingly did, across our sea of 2018 and beyond.






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