“Il Pirata” they called you
Plunging from the mist
A yellow raptor
riding down on death’s
The painful road that
bore your name
towards the clouds
Waiting for your tribute
Copper wire arms upon
A rictus of handlebars
Skin basted under tyrant sun
You hid your weakness
Past where Simpson fell
You danced on the pedals
The circus had taken to the road
Where debts were overdue
And to be paid in kind
Tangled in the system
Your bright flame began to wane
Being only human,
The crowd on your shoulder screamed
They ran alongside
Draped in flags,
A nightmare chorus of the parabola
And you, trying to find stillness
You dreamt of riding
Under a low evening sky
A yellow sail
On the shining road
Marco, I’ll forgive you
For whatever you’re supposed to have done
Your conscience was clearer than mine
On the day you flew
To the sun.
Marco Pantani (13 January 1970 – 14 February 2004) was a professional Italian road racing cyclist, widely considered one of the best climbers of his era.
The wide men swayed the streets of Port
with silken stories, and easy returns:
"One had only to open a door in the mountain
for riches to pour out"...
Masters and Mariners,
crisp collared capitalists with letter box eyes,
hay dealers, feed merchants, hungry horse mongers,
toffs with red noses,
plain buttoned spinsters-
normally known to see well through their spectacles-
all pledged their savings.
Slate was the thing.
The promoters brewed theatre,
mummery, flamjamfery, the sound of jingling sovereigns.
Fair wind followed stacks of opiate cumulous
over Braich-y-Bib junction.
Levels had appeared on the mountain
a mill with fine arches,
inclined planes invited gaze to the quarried heights
and a tramway
from Port to the top of Cwm Pennant.
Bubbles and froth
bore the first train
before "Pert" ran out of steam for anything more.
As the brume swirled below Moel Lefn,
semblance, a brief flame, extinguished
fading to grey skies
the colour of slate.
Planished by hosts of armoured winters
worn thin by the wind and rain
the tramway, rumoured and vestigial,
threadbare along the contour.
A rough slab bridge
crosses a ravine murmured with water
the way merely a gesture.
A line of reeds, a bead drawn
seen in a droplet
remembered by a gate in a wall
or a name: "Railway Terrace".
we walk and
appreciate the clues,
think of those who laboured
to leave a cutting in the meadow
a revetment on a hillside.
One last strand of a spider's web
that linked in delirium
miraged towers of fevered
My old car
parts the curtain of tumbling rain
As thunder rattles
Double six around the pewter sky
The blade’s arc wipes afresh
A glade below grey fells, sliding quickly past.
Tail lights bloom briefly
Then scatter like tiny alpines
Upon the moorland flanks
While I keep below the line
Against camera’s painful witness.
Neon banners herald a truce
The no-man’s land of shop, coffee stop and fuel
I think of you and call your number
Amid mis-spelt rumours of light
In hills along the windscreen’s edge.
Then another round
as the road lays out
While I grind the miles down
Past familiar landmarks
Through the diesel soaked mist of endless trucks
And the tyranny of headlights
A harsh penance, this
but one taken with gratitude.
The rain's tears fall again
on the wraithed forest,
the road-cursed fell.
and the trail of spray
pluming behind wheels
I am still within empty tracks
Thinking of home.
Walking, stooped between bristled lines
a no-man's land in the dark legions.
Soft needles, dead twigs underfoot,
sharp sniper branches jabbing.
Resistance is futile.
We move, folded in an envelope of rustling.
Dry branches snap, grab at clothing.
We mutter curses against those who planted
these bloody trees so close.
Who assimilated this hill.
A solitary bird gives alarm
otherwise, like the floor of a dry ocean,
all is dead and still.
Moss and lichen struggle. Grass never had a chance.
This is the basement where
all colour is saved, to flirt with the sky,
to sway, panning for clorophyll,
in the dreamed, copper-burnished storeys of light.
Ahead, green and gold escaping around the bars
of this colourless prison
a ceded ground, unplanned.
Sitka drones ebb around a lattice of fallen trees,
limbs chaotic in the new corridor .
We stand, our backs grateful for the space.
The beech had grown tall, chasing the light
Perhaps, she fell while dreaming of the sunlit days,
of cattle rubbing against her smooth bark.
Bird-garlanded, branches bright with green bunting
in song-buttered air, skittered by dancing insects.
Now, moss will cover impartially, yet with slow nobility.
The spruce lock roots, braced.
has determined this will not happen again.
copyright Iain Robinson, 2018
I was only just getting to know you.
And now you are gone.
Your familiar shape, a kindness
in the hedgerow,
a place for staring birds.
You rendered light
into dancing shade for cattle
dark eyed in grateful stillness.
You embraced all who climbed
your paternostered limbs
to them you were storied,
a fortress of life.
In winter, you were gesture and recrimination,
the sky comb.
Your roots entwined themselves between
my sunlit memories.
The legends of your gifts:
Quinine barked, beetle scrambled
your trunk was cleft
and the child passed through.
Your strength would heal their limbs.
Bound back together, you survived.
Yet chalara felled you.
Like the Constabled elms before,
dry-brushed, scumbled in the memory of broad leafed summers,
you are going away.
Your light will never dance again, jittering on the road,
or your shadows stoop at the golden hour.
My favourite places were hallowed by you
the sweet stand in the lower meadow
the rake by the burn.
Now I find you cankered,
a hollow carcass that won't hear apologies
the last throw of the dice
has gone with the staring angel.
No ring of twigs,
laid around you by moonlight
in old magic's name
will stay this.
In the corners of the wood,
by the stream banks and road sides
you issue the last fanfare of leaves.
Quiet cambium, you
will rise no longer in the world
which carries on,
careless of your passing.
Copyright Iain Robinson 2018
The moor is bilious, secretive and strange.
Under the weather, yellow grass fights for a hold in the soft ground
but sphagnum is likely to win.
Water patters into the untopped chaos of the North Sinc,
seeping through the teetering tips.
Most days are washing days,
soaking down through the dark adits
past the wormed pump, the wagons, the rails growing rust shells
out from gloom again.
The drainage adit a mystery
smeared onto the side of the hill far below.
In the north chamber
a chink of light, high up
makes a study of the fallen crane,
shear legs fibrous and delicate
while rusted brackets weep ochre.
Above, the tramway, seamed, puddled and tadpoled
reflects planished sky and memories.
The old mill offers all it has left.
Gnarled fingers of wall point to the sky for quarter
none will come, only oily rain.
Inside, the roof beams and frames of forgotten machines
lie over all at unexpected angles.
I looked but couldn't find the fabled north road handlebars
scratched in the wood,
though found "WD" and "Jones, 1936".
"Evans 1904" had a quiet voice,
he'd carved with skill and finely,
his name echoing faintly down the years.
On the top of the hill
three chasms are punched into the moor,
unguarded, like a brazen mischief done.
The wind flutes its fell music across
keening for the men who once split slate.
Hunched between the tips, an old cwt
hunkers, as if dodging from enquiring eyes,
shocked to see the situation it finds itself in.
The tips are built up all around it
a slow, fingertip tsunami of slate.
Now the lichens have equably
badged what remains.
Birch has yet to visit, but spruce
regretting it's mistake
among the slate dust and the heather.
The skylark skirls above the rain
The ravens cronk.
Somewhere in their black memory
the moor is untouched by man
unclassified by light.
Stacks of slates
ready to send, in 1960
are now a blue-grey geological card index,
sorted occasionally by the wind
infiltrated by rain
but weathering out the years.
Copyright Iain Robinson 2018
Vintage sunlight catching
chrome plated italics
my finger tracing raised lines.
I feel weightless
of loaded film is
an infinity of images,
ready to burst out of the brittle cream plastic.
I yearn to press the shutter.
But this is a perverse
I take the expected photographs-
mundane arrangements of aunties-
christmas days, holidays
smiling seasons within a narrow world.
Enprints return from the chemist
In envelopes more exciting than the photographs they contain.
Albumed, their magic fades, eclipsed with sadness.
a holiday in Devon, 1962.
Restless all day, sand castles lacking allure
instead wanting to creep
to where a secretive locomotive wheezes,
pushing wagons about .
At last, precious minutes are approved
time to take my photograph.
Parents impatient, smoking, keen to be off
"Hurry up, then!"
I squeeze the shutter
the spell is cast, set to travel down the ages.
The next day, excited about more train photos
childish hands drop the camera.
The bakelite body breaks
film looping out, unspooled, spoiled.
Spilled memories stream
diluting until lost in the summer light
amid my tears.
As if to compensate for cardinal loss
my retina assigns soot and sunlight to memory:
The crew, smiling from the cab
locomotive beetling towards the docks
swathed in yellow smoke and shadows
sky unfathomably clear.
Much time has passed.
Now there are no steam engines
outside of captivity.
My latest camera is complicated,
capable beyond my abilities.
Yet I still hope
as I press the viewfinder to my face
for the magic in that sunlit image,
captured in my mind.
copyright Iain Robinson 2018
The clouds came from the west
war banners flapping, sheets in the wind.
The air full of portent,
tender young oaks chattered in their tubes
birches rattled limbs.
Spruces round the old quarry twll clenched their wide roots
in soil shelved thinly on slate.
The wind sent some of last Autumns leaves as flyers
"keep down and nobody will get hurt!"
A detatchment of hail rode shotgun
to make sure all was above board.
If there had been a shepherd at Blaen Pennant
he'd have got his flock in quick.
But the windows there were wind holes, purged of people.
Trum-y-Dysgyl ripped the advance guard to shreds
so the clouds gathered darker
a mile above
and fell, frayed on the sleeve of a low front
into the cwm.
A joint operation, wind and clouds took control.
Hebog was gagged, walls running into grey.
There were no landmarks now.
full of black notes and the wind's chaos.
Birds flattened against rock, or deep within hawthorn and birch.
A fox shivered inside the opencut above Hendre Ddu.
Sheep rolled about like stones on the moor.
Welsh Blacks above Tyddyn Mawr
swayed a twenty ton scrum against a wall, eyes wide,
lowing in the wind's wild jabber.
The oaks fought a shrewd battle, letting branches go
let the wind think there was damage,
among the torture of twisting limbs.
But this was the night that the ash trees gave up,
not that any blamed them; their raddled trunks sundered
lying along the no-mans land
in the sad, damp pasture.
We woke up next morning to the loss of their familiar outline.
Gorse was ripped from the ground
"no quarter given, none asked".
The spruce trees fell slowly, at the last,
when things seemed over.
The wind was tired, but mustered one last tour of the scene
offed a few by the road at Garndolbenmaen.
Sent three down into the twll and four more over the road,
where the farmer,
half asleep, ran into one, cursing.
As the first soft drops of mournful rain fell at dawn
the hawthorns gripped
tightly and decided to go on doing so,
for as long as it took.
Copyright Iain Robinson 2018
A collection of my slate landscape poems is now available to purchase.
Containing twenty poems, it is illustrated with nineteen black and white photographs taken in the slate landscapes of Gwynedd and Mid Wales.
There are ten new poems that have not appeared anywhere else, while the others have been reworked, in some cases, extensively. Showing some of the work online has clarified my thinking and enabled me to dig further into the subjects.
The book has 60 pages and measures 12.6 cms by 20.5 cms.
It costs £10.00 plus postage.
Postage to the UK, first class, is £1.50.
To Europe (including Ireland) is £3.05.
To USA and Canada is £3.70.
To Australia and New Zealand is £3.80.
To purchase a copy, fill in the contact form below with your full postal address and I will invoice you by email- you can pay immediately from the invoice and your book will be posted to you.
All copies of the book will be signed