Double Helix

Whose lives have leached into this coiled mass

of chromosomes, shaping bone and flesh, that stares

back at me from mirror’d Llyn Berwyn?

Celt, with echo-tones of otherness.


‘Mam’ new-budded

on sinewy stem of self

fed with forebears’ sap,

I feel the pull of helix’d cord.


Leaf thrum stirs parchment-pale;

below dark-hidden heartwood

exposed roots spread wide.

I squint at inky branches

where lineage

unfurls


from Welsh hills’ whorled contours

to Jamaica’s cassonade sands,

birthplace

of four times

great-grandfather,

Nathaniel.

From first breath, enslaved:

mother, simply Jessie.

A dead end. Umbilical cut.


But Caribbean cousins gift me a song,

passed down

to

Jessie’s

son

through

African

bloodline.

I hear Nathaniel’s deep baritone

field-hollerin’ his heritage

as he straightens

from stooping to slash at sugarcane.

Unchained ancestral voices

soar


across centuries and lands

to ring clear in this Cambrian cwtch

where they meld with notes of telyn and crwth,

and flow through me

to the child at my breast.

Welsh translations: Llyn Berwyn: Lake Berwyn. Cwtch: n. a small hiding place; n/v cuddle, hug Telyn: harp Crwth: lyre.
© Moira Ashley
Published in an anthology for the Penfro Literary Festival in Pembrokeshire, 2019
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