Cwm

One word, it doesn’t matter which,
can be the pebble that sets off
an avalanche. Careful!
We could be buried until spring,
limbs tangled
under the snowy quilt.

One syllable older than language
can shock the snow awake,
recollecting its true nature:
to flow, to flood.

Listen: the brass bell fastened
to the neck of a sheep
has some other sheep’s tooth
for a clapper.
These noises we make
for each other & through each other,
mouth against throat,
broadcast our position
at every trembling step.

*

Cwm (pronounded “koom”) is a cirque.

Thought I’d try my hand at a love poem for once. Not being in any romantic entanglement actually makes it easier, I think. Hard to achieve the necessary aesthetic distance otherwise.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

17 Comments


  1. I love the last set of sheep images — it’s such a strange sideways leap from the avalanche and snowmelt ones: but it works beautifully, and it ends conveying such a poignant sense of how vulnerable love makes you.

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    1. Glad to hear that works. I spent a while trying to make a more explicit connection, but finally decided that the implied geography would have to be the main connective thread.

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  2. This is quite wonderful, Dave. I hate to think what you’d write if you were actually entangled; doesn’t get much truer than this.

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    1. That’s good to hear from someone who’s been married as long as you have — nice to know I got something right. Thanks for commenting.

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  3. This is really beautiful. I like the “syllable older than language” line especially.

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  4. I like:
    The word play that gives pause.
    The first line that toys with both poet & lover.
    The delightful threats of promise.

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  5. Very fine, Dave. Powerful and tender. I like the association – intended, subconscious or accidental – between the wider topographical containment of ‘cwm’ and the intimate physical containment of the lovers.

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    1. Subconscious, I guess. Good point. Thanks for your kind words.

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  6. This is a sad and extremely tight poem, Dave. A poem of caution as much as anything else. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. It wasn’t meant to be sad, but it’s interesting that you found it so. Good feedback.

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  7. Recollecting is delectable. And what is says is delicious. (I think I must {happily} be conflating this with your bread post.) I love how you feel strongly toward materials and their changes of phase. I think of a earth dam going liquid (an image of a worker waving good-bye conversationally from his diminishing island, soon to be inhaling his own petrification, which is quite something to consider erotically.)

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    1. “Recollecting” was the only word there, wasn’t it? This seems like one of those rare poems where very few of the words could be dropped or changed. That makes me happy. As for feeling, sure — it’s how I write: picture something as vividly as possible, and try all available words until I find some that approximate it.

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  8. How extraordinary to turn to your website and find a poem titled Cwm, the Welsh word for valley.

    Yet again one of your works sticks like a burr in the imagination. All morning at the easel (under the sheep’s skull resting on a beam above) I shall be thinking of the sheep’s tooth clapper while running my tongue over my molars, my head a bell clamourous with reverberations.

    Sorry I’ve been absent. Chaos here as Ty Isaf is re-wired and re-plumbed for central heating. The past two Winters nearly undid me, ice inside the windows rendering my studio arctic. Time for change. Of course the disruption is agonising, but I’ll be mighty glad come the frosts.

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    1. Hi Clive – Good to hear from you! I know all about the disruption that needed repairs or refurbishing can cause. Most recently, my front porch got a full make-over — and it turned out to be much closer to collapse than anyone suspected. Without it, how would I keep my Morning Porch chronicle? I think they’re planning to paint it tomorrow.

      Glad this piece resonated with you. I confess I hadn’t heard of the word until I looked up cirque to be sure of the meaning and saw it had a synonym. As for the sheep’s bell, I have one of that description sitting on the shelf with my poetry books. I bought it in the Massif Central when I was a kid (same trip where we saw the lammergeier).

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