Tuesday, March 24, 2015



I stood at the massive gates 
of mighty Caernarfon Castle
one sultry summer evening, 
my back to Avalon, and the Holy Isle. 
I marveled at its tawny leonine beauty, 
reflected on twilight's indigo shoulders,
crowned with stars wavering in the moat.
But it was a fortress built by the enemy, 
with shackled native hands, for Longshanks, 
an agent of suppression, along with Beaumaris,
a triune kingdom on the edge of Anglesey.
Conwy Castle to the north, was once called
Aberconwy Abbey, founded by Llywelyn the Great,
the Prince of Wales. It was settled by English squatters,
where the Welsh were forbidden upon pain of death.
Such a gentle, pastoral word: colonization.
Images of sheep gamboling in green pastures.
Fields strewn with a hard culture of white bones.
And then the turbulent tide in the Menai Straits
began whispering a jumble of older names: 
Cair Segeint, the Roman garrison, Segontium,
or Cair Custoient, where stood the fort of Constantius,
he who begat Constantine the Great,
and Caer Aber Sein, the fort on the River Seiont.
And what of the hammer of the Ordovices?
In this rugged pasturage of bone, Caratacus still walks.
Not even Agricola launched the last sling and arrow.
In the kingdom of Gwynedd, the dream
of Macsen Wledig may have called me home
to the mouth of the River Seiont,
but the natives are still restless,
two dragons still fight in Dinas Emrys.
Owain Glyndŵr, the last prince of Wales,
returned and turned the bloodied tide,
a sleeping hero awaiting the klaxon call
of sword against stone—once and future king.
In my grandmother's house, the name
Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots,
was a curseword, along with Cromwell.
I found the dark road leading
to the bailey gate paved over
with the historical intent
of oppression.

3/24 and 4/1/2015

See, I wasn't the only one who shuddered in its shadow. It would've been great to have access to this article when I wrote this poem. In my case, the research took forever to synthesize (see first draft below, in pale type), I'll need to compare and contrast to see if I got my facts straight.

Ten Castles that Made Medieval Britain: Caernarfon Castle

I stood there at dusk 
one summer 
marveling at its sublime beauty, 
built by the enemy, 
an agent of suppression. 
Longshanks was a dirty word, 
along with Cromwell 
in my grannie's house.

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