Here are two of my favorite poems I've written about Cornwall:
The Cornish and the Gorse
If you grasp the gorse, or fall into the furze
and rake your skin, you take on Cornish character.
The Cornish and the gorse are either side of one green leaf.
They are synonyms, inseparable,
they swap their substance and their breaths.
Call it what you will, your fancy's choice,
When rich in bloom say golden gorse,
When plain greygreen say furze.
Both its names are coarse and carry spines,
long and maddening and fierce.
For long years of the backalong, poor Cornish women
carried boiler, clothes and brandis to the well
and gathered furze to build their fires.
Rinsed clothes were spread upon the furze to dry
while the women bit the spines from out their fingers.
Cornwall cannot be thought without the golden gorse.
For century heaped on century, children of the poor
who had no turves walked to landlords' hedge and
furze brake to gather stog and branch, fuel to heap on
upturned kettle to bake pasty, barley bread and pie.
For forever and for more the Cornish and the gorse
have shared their very elements: oxygen held now
in leaf, exhaled, and now in blood,
carbon now in branch of gorse and now
in bones dug into churchyard soil.
The Cornish have from time unknown
laid their bones in earth to give the furze their fertile fire
to transform into branch and golden flower—
on sacred hearth the furze returned the fire it stored
and warmed the winter gales.
The furze brake always spreads and grows
across the Cornish moorlands
strung with menhir, ring and bones,
graced with bracken, heather bell and ling.
When the gorse explodes its seeds they spray out far
and scatter: At Blackheath there is a furze-shroud mound
where after the Rebellion, the Cornish dead were thrown,
the old bargain carried to the foreign east.
Atoms of those men still bloom.
When the gorse's seeds explode they scatter wide:
In the miners' Diaspora, 300,00 Cornish
were offered to the soil around the globe.
Atoms that were once gorse lie
inside those miners' bones on every continent.
dreaming still, perhaps, of flowering in gold.
COMING TO GRASS
Cornishman: a man at the bottom of a mine, singing.
They came to grass at the end of the day.
They climbed from the Dark to grass
and carried the Dark up with them.
After a long day of night with only
the head’s candle for light,
after aching hours of sledging iron
against candle-gleamed borer,
Grass was the surface they climbed to
through a thousand feet of Dark—
Over and over they pulled their weight up the rungs
as their hearts rang the ribcage,
to come up to light and grass-green,
but to carry Dark with them unseen.
Dark changed the strong men,
shortened their tempers, stubborned beliefs,
roughened their tongues—
Dark led them to think
they were the ones who could see.
But in the mine, in chapel, in pub,
Bearing this Dark is what taught them to sing.
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