Cymro by Sophie McKeand
The piece below was written by Young People’s Laureate for Wales, Sophie McKeand, to mark 50 years since the Aberfan disaster. The poem was commissioned by Wales Millennium Centre for the Aberfan Memorial Concert on Saturday 8 October and was read by actor Michael Sheen.
Brother, I have challenged you. Tundra flesh & frozen hearted, I watched your struggles. The ice wind blowing from north to south, east to west, I exhaled sleet & thunder, manifest lightening & war.
Brother, I was indifferent to you. The hard slate of argument & self-righteous rock of years – compressed memories, pain & hurt. Strata layered with misunderstandings & the knowledge that ‘I’ am always right (we dig the richest seams).
Brother, I have hated you. Wished you in heaven, & hell. Felt skin itch quick & prickled at your actions. Experienced scorched words launched hot, so I returned, always returned, quickfire
Brother, I have wept for you. When the wasteland between us, became us, & the barren earth we ravaged crippled us (founding fathers) so that the bare trees shuddered at our thoughts, & wild rivers rusted at our words, & black crows spiralled from the sky where we trod.
Brother, I stand before you. Mouth of ash & dust, eyes of mirrors, glass shattered at the carnage created by men who would tear this land apart just to be right.
Brother, I kneel before you. I never believed in fate, or our ability to wound each other, I only dreamed of what was rightfully mine & did not want you to have the capacity to love, or sow seeds, plant crops, gather fruits, sit under wide oak trees & laugh in sunlight, without me.
Brother, I hold my arms out to you. Because our future can only flourish when people of every origin rooted here, grow together. Cymru is our country – land of brothers, a family of all races & none, & soon the mountains in which we forge incandescent songs will echo with our children’s bright voices.
Brother, I will carry you. For as long as it takes. For as far as it takes, I will shoulder your story because it is also mine & we will sow poetry across these Welsh mountains & valleys together. We are the untameable forest. The hard slate. The mighty seas. The rolling skies.
The strength of our community, the artistry of our words will galvanize hearts across this troubled world so that the legend of the brothers of Cymru is celebrated long after we have
folded into earth.
Sophie McKeand said:
It was an honour to be asked to write for such an important memorial event for the Aberfan Trust.
The narrative approach taken for this piece begins at a point of conflict (between two brothers) and moves towards resolution as I feel this is something that offers space for the human spirit to shine – to show our true strength and openness and capacity for love.
I hope this piece has captured some of the difficult history of Cymru, as well as focusing on how much stronger we are when working together. Hiraeth is a core theme. The Welsh landscape and weather also feature heavily in much of my work and consequently I cannot stop this seeping into everything I create.
Thank you to the Wales Millennium Centre for their permission to reproduce the work here.