THERE IS NO TIME. WHAT IS MEMORY?*

by Ken Jones


 
It stands on the edge of Mynydd Bach, a desolate upland. Rocky hillocks rise among the ginger bogs. Here and there a few storm-wrecked trees around a pile of stones mark the site of a ty un–nos. A hovel built in a night. Dawn smoke from its chimney gave legal title.

Summer evening long ago…
rusty horse rake
tall rushes through its spokes

And there it is -- I remember the slate slab. TALFRYN and a lively pointing hand. Walking up its track, somehow you can sense when the life has gone out of a house.

Sagging bench
facing out towards the western sea
how many sunsets?

We met the couple ten years ago, in the summertime, calling in -- as now -- for a cup of tea. They were ‘sixties homesteaders, with only ghosts for neighbours. Cheerful and resourceful, tough and gentle. They made things of delight, indoors and out. And anything that had stopped, they seemed to be able to make it go again.
 
We peer through cobwebbed windows. In the parlour two chairs are pulled up comfortably around the wood-burner.

Tarnished brass pendulum
holding the time
at half past three

Just popped out for a five year stroll.
 
And over there, in the shadows of the entrance hall –

Rail of well-worn clothes
there they hang
left entirely to themselves

The garden is now growing back into the wild hillside. A tombstone makes a bridge across the little stream: words and moss. We peer into his well-ordered workshop.

Chisels upright in their rack
cutting edge of rust

Beehives overturned and broken. The greenhouse wrecked. Little rusty two-strokes locked forever solid. In the summer house her mildewed straw hat, idly cast one day onto the table where once we had taken tea. Filaments of spider webs deck the bakelite wireless.

Draped across
an easy chair
Devil’s Ivy

Now is only rain drenched stone and a north-east wind. Our storyteller is gone, and the past with him. Our dreamer has disappeared, and the future with her.

Last year’s bird nest
inside so soft and smooth
crumbles at a touch

* Inscription over a Chinese temple arch, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

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