The river is gorged on days of rain; consistency of soup, colour of coffee. Barely contained, boisterous and rowdy, it barrels through town, boiling in froth as it shoots the bridge, snatching up tangles of twigs and branches, bright-coloured plastic, bottles and beer-cans, odd bits of litter, any duck not quite paying attention, and hurling them down its own throat as it roars its wild way to its mouth. But I recall summer, when this noisy delinquent was a starveling shadow, thin as a wand, sticks and stones like ribs and bones staring through its pale, dirty skin. Oh yes, it’s big now, bold and rambunctious, and nothing dares stand in its way. But wait till the sun is back in full fire, the brown fields are gasping and the sky is a bowl of blue steel. It won’t be so full of itself then.
Avant moi, le deluge
The river, bored with lying in its bed,
Had yawned and stretched, then risen, gone outside
To run across the road and fields instead.
And thus I met it, midway through a ride.
We stopped to shoot the breeze a while. It told
Me tales from way upstream, showed me the sticks
And branches it had carried in its cold
And brown embrace. It promised me: no tricks –
But I did not believe it. Treachery
Was ever in its heart, so hoisting high
My bike, I took the walkway, carefully
Avoiding its soft voice and gleaming eye.
Then rode on, proving once again how far
Superior the bike is to the car.
My feet fell in
With Dylan’s way
Along the Aeron,
Where it slips and tumbles
Demob-happy as it nears the sea
Dipper-deep over salmon-smooth stones.
The red kites rode the wind
Over the woods
And I drank deep
As the Young Dog himself
On the lash in Laugharne
Of the giddy, untainted air.
Dylan Thomas loved the Aeron valley in Ceredigion, and regularly walked along the lane that runs past my mother-in-law’s house. His ghost is good company.