The Hill Fort (Y Gaer)


On a clear day he’d bring him here,
his young son, charging the hill
as wild as the long-maned ponies

who’d watch a moment
before dropping their heads to graze again.
When he finally got him still

he’d crouch so their eyes were level,
one hand at the small of his back
the other tracing the horizon,

pointing out all the places lived in
by the fathers and sons before them:
Tretower, Raglan, Bredwardine…

And what he meant by this but never said, was
‘Look. Look over this land and see how long
the line is before you – how in these generations

we’re no more than scattered grains;
that from here in this view, 9, 19 or 90 years
are much the same;

that it isn’t the number of steps
that will matter,
but the depth of their impression.’

And that’s why he’s come back again,
to tip these ashes onto the tongue of the wind
and watch them spindrift into the night.

Not just to make the circle complete,
to heal or mend,
but because he knows these walls,

sunk however low,
still hold him in as well as out:
protect as much as they defend.

from Skirrid Hill (Seren, 2006), copyright © Owen Sheers 2006, used by permission of the author.

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