Cares y Bwlch

They say I ate the flesh of men,
cursed me although they eat the flesh of my land.
Although they grind its bones to make their bread,
they denied and cursed my millstones.

They were so terrified of disappearing
into the gap of my mouth
they stopped riding through the pass
and called for a saint.

Collen puffed up with the wind of the Holy Ghost
fancying he’d banished Gwyn ap Nudd
came with Bible, holy water and sword
up hillock past stones and sheep

voice made big with conceit demanding
I take some human-like form
like the image in which he’d fixed his God.
So I loomed earth-flesh tall, a single unblinking eye,

confronted him with little human-like words:
rocks bouncing down a precipice,
rolling against the teeth
of the gap.

Collen had a comeback for each.
Swollen with self-importance he threw
his inflated robed form (stale with odours)
into the assault. Such saintly glee

as he severed the right arm of an unarmed giantess
in a flesh slicing, tendon snagging,
bone splitting blow.
I retrieved the limb hand gripping wrist.

Hand gripping wrist. (My living body will not be dismembered).
I beat him bloody wanted to drown him
in woman-knowledge.
He surfaced from the red sea with a thank you

that slashed off my left arm.
Then he cut off my head and left my torso
standing on two knees sunken into stone.
His triumph was short-lived.

Trembling within four walls of his chapel
he could not escape my breath,
the knowledge his time to pass
through the gap

of my mouth would come.
When they lowered him into his grave
I wrapped my arms around him.
My fingers gripped his throat.

*In the previous post, Robin Herne shared his poem, ‘Gwynn’s Guest’, which retells the story of the supposed banishing of the Fairy King from Glastonbury Tor by St Collen. Robin suggested I retell Collen’s later slaughter of the giantess, Cares y Bwlch (‘Girlfriend of the Gap’). This poem resulted.

As a bit of background: after leaving Glastonbury, Collen travelled to North-East Wales, where he learnt that Cares y Bwlch, the flesh-eating giantess of the mountain pass, Bwlch Rhiwfelen, was terrorising local people. Collen commanded Cares to appear to him, battled against her and sliced off her right arm. The dauntless giantess, unfazed, picked it up and beat the ‘saint’ with it. He then sliced off her left arm and slaughtered her. Afterward, he washed his sword in St Collen’s Well, making it holy (Robin pointed out it was holy beforehand…). Collen died in Llangollen, which was named after him.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Greg says:

    Good to have re-imagined narratives rendered into verse in this way – it brings the story to a bright focus on essentials.


  2. Robin says:

    Love the image of the red sea and its depth of implications, and the image of the cyclops grabbing the old devil in his grave.


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