Encounters With a Welsh Poet (for Nigel)

You look like Jesus clad in jeans.
But you tell me you are not even Christian.

A paleface, god-sent young man
once entered the quietness of our
mist-woven hills, brought us letters,
literature and the Bible.
He was your countryman.
The Tommies, however, brought spite,
spattered our fathers’ blood on the ferns
and spoke to us in gunfire tones.

I have seen the Welsh who speak in Welsh,
and it shames me to hear myself converse,
with my own people, in the language
of the snobs, the plunderers of our pride,
who sold us poverty and slavery
free of cost.

I have seen you listen intently to Morrison.
The Irish heartbeat is not very different
from the Welsh. Only tell me,
are your people proud as you are?

“A land worth fighting for.” Your words.
It grieves me that you love
these broken ridges and valleys more
than some of us do.

______________
I’m posting this in memory of one of Wales’ finest writers and poets, the late Nigel Jenkins who passed away at the age of 64 exactly a year ago. In 1996, he won the prestigious Wales Book of the Year award for his book Gwalia in Khasia (1995), written after his visits to the Khasi Hills (in my home state, Meghalaya in Northeast India). Had written this poem after his second visit in 1993.
Image courtesy: http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article9124466.ece/alternates/w620/pg-52-jenkins-roberts.jpg

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