The Secret Pages: Prologue: Port Meirion

Italianate. As if the word can turn
the weeping skies of Wales unbroken blue,
can crack the flags, which gravity and rain
have worked towards the sea. Italianate.
It’s marketing, a mumble for the bank,
like sketches showing pretty little streets
of cottages for visitors to hire.

‘What country friends is this? Illyria?’
Close, but no coconut from Cambria’s palms.
This is the ghost coast of Bohemia,
where rising hills are coiled with domes and damp
and woods conceal intentions, paths and bears.
Go careful in this fretwork fairy tale
where Merlin’s heir has made the village church
from plywood and a borrowed inglenook,
called columns from all corners of the isle
for avenues and grottoes, twisted steel
to sullen ecstasy, transformed a ship
from lively wood to grounded concrete hulk.

That’s where the princess stooped beside the pool,
arms elbow deep in ice to free the fish
(the wisest creature left between the walls).
That rocky vantage there – that’s where the dwarf
spat curses as the water chilled her pride.
He scuttled up those steps to mend his plans,
but heard, as he ran past the Buddha’s feet,
the prince-bear roaring in the woods,
man’s mind and form dependent on her tears.
And here, they found the singing-ringing tree,
still green, although knee-deep in eldritch snow.
The consummation, bare prince and princess,
took place in that small hut, when winter rain
had driven off the summer guests and left
them lone and loving, unrestrained, untame.

She calls him bear on nights beside the fire
when all their royal offspring are in bed
and servants snug in garrets. Then he wraps
the furry rug about him and, on fours,
reprises his enchantment until she,
her hair a little thinner than it was,
releases him. At least, that’s what I heard.


Merlin’s heir: in the legend, Merlin moved Stonehenge to its current position. Illyria: line 8 of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.Bohemia: in The Winter’s Tale Shakespeare gives land-locked Bohemia (roughly the Czech Republic) a coast. The princess stooped beside the pool: Much of this and following imagery is drawn from The Singing Ringing Tree, a cold war television series from East Germany.