A Tale of Two Women

It’s my pleasure to introduce to readers of The Igam-Ogam Mabinogion the work of guest poet Emlyn Roberts:

The Shadow of Hope

Pain wrapped its arms around her
and held her close.
She did not cry out,
there were no tears.
She sought for a remnant of herself
from a mind box of her own making.
She stood for a long time in darkness;
she had no permission for light.

She went to the kitchen
just to touch her hope.
Her hidden hope she named it.
He did not know of it
and so could not take it away.
She held it inside her arms
tight against her chest,
seeking comfort from it.

It took an age to mount the stairs
for she knew every creak
that might awaken the beast.
He was sprawled on the bed,
snoring softly,
his reek filling the room
his body a lump in the moonlight,
fat-rolls moving gently.

Holding her breath
she watched until
she could see the merest flutter
where his heart beat
with misbegotten life.
Slowly she took a deep breath,
she raised the knife –

and then her shadow ate her.

Emlyn Roberts

True Story
( News item, Sunday, 16 December 2012 )

There were no presents
at Kadi’s six weddings that night
no settlements for her six divorces
one husband outraged her virginity
the others paid their wedding fees
and waited in eager turn
there were no wedding clothes
only her abused skin
there was no feasting
just the taste of horror
there was no headdress
no water to cleanse
no ring to bind
Kadi did not say yes
she could not say no
her husbands only cared
that it was not rape
for that would have been a sin
Kadi grieved for a blessing
but God’s tears dried
before they could reach her

(The name ‘Kadi’ is fictional)

Emlyn Roberts

These are two ‘dark’ poems from Emlyn Roberts – poems reflecting a grimly shadowed side of humanity with which we might prefer not to occupy our daily thoughts, but which nevertheless exists, often beyond our least suspicion and almost always closely hidden, all around us. We have all come across reports, some sinister beyond belief, which pierce us to the heart when we are suddenly confronted with them; reports which can leave, perhaps for years, perhaps for a lifetime, an indelible picture of base cruelty and suffering on our minds (there is the face of one young woman, pitiful and abused to the point of death, which will never cease to haunt me; I wish I had never seen that poor woman’s face in a photograph or read the report which accompanied it, because I know it will at odd unsuspected moments of day or night come back to me, and come back to me always). Here in two poems we have degradation starkly thrust upon us – the one seeking a final way out of endless desperation, the other surrounding an ill-used, defenceless and unknowing child. And such abominations, sometimes prolonged over many years, are silently and secretly committed and suffered in closed, secluded places, not only in the dens of the offscourings of the earth but in the respectable places, in the lands of and at the hands of the decent and the godly.           

Here, in these poems, we glimpse examples of the deliberate maltreatment of part of no less than half of humankind, and furthermore that half which should be revered as sacred – womankind – as Mother, Sister, Wife and Lover, continuator of the species, the womankind which has so often proven, thanks be, capable of enduring and combating the many anguishes to which she has been unjustly subjected. Woman, fashioned so as to be physically unmatched to man, but by no means otherwise unmatched and substantially superior in the more esoteric realms of thought and in emotive-intuitive attributes, possessing that ‘x-factor’ which has been a long-time mystery to him and which he has striven to understand but failed, and having failed, resorted to his physical advantage. He has been suspicious of her, has even feared her, throughout history allotting her a position of subservience, as all our sacred texts and the majority of our historical literature inform us. What is it that sets her apart? Something ‘God’-given? Something inseminated by Mother Nature into her soul to act as – what? Some kind of safeguard for the species? The peacemaker? It must surely always remain a mystery unsolved. In this respect, that is as far as the species are concerned, man- and womankind could be said to be only one in two distinct ways – wholly complementary by role, but strangely counterposed in nature. What such an augmentation is worth, and given my own mindset – which upon the reading was sent at once into rapid, perhaps idiosyncratic you will say, acceleration – these are nevertheless some implications and associations I personally extrapolate from these two compelling poems. But what do I know about the veriest evils of misogyny? I was raised in quietude and chapelry by two lovely, angelic even, Welsh ladies who enjoyed their youth and young womanhood in the last quarter of the 19th century, as their elegant beauty beneath piled-up Victorian coiffures in their photographs from the 1890s attest.  Wait …  Perhaps that has everything to do with it.      

Emlyn is a native of the Welsh north. Of himself and his work he has this to say: ‘I am an old poet who was once a young poet. I try to make my poetry say something, and to matter’. We see from this that he has been composing poetry for a long time, and as is obvious from the two examples above, writes poetry with a clear message – poetry which speaks to us here in no uncertain terms of the unfathomed and disturbing vagaries which can lie deep within the human condition.

6 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Women

  1. Diolch am rannu cerddi Emlyn. Gwaith pŵerus a phwysig. These are topica which need to be presented through poetry in order to jolt us out of our comfort zone.
    A diolch i Emlyn am fod yn ddewr ac onest yn ei waith.

    Liked by 2 people

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