of breath on a neck in a secluded place:
the echoing voice of the ocean’s waves
transports words out of sight.
So secure a narrow ravine
for two in the shadowy marches of the Otherworld:
the whispers of the sea in the time of dusk
promises them a deep hour.
Water takes possession
of its portion from the limit of hearing:
flowing tide gives perfect voice
to a salty need that sweeps to shore.
Gravel does not turn to sand, leaves of the wood do not wither,
heart is not yet pricked by the recollection of the lie:
tomorrow is of no account when all time ebbs.
Notes on this poem
This toponym, originally Porth Byghan, means ‘Little Cove’ in Cornish, a Celtic language closely related to Breton and Welsh. The prosody is of the poem is strict, including alliterations in the first three stanzas (the first stanza in the original reads Forlow fel | anall war gonna’n argel: | daslev an tonnow difeyth | a gari geryow a-wel.) and cross-rhyming in the last one (Ny diwes grow, ny wyw del gwig,| kolonn ny’s pig hwath kevenn an gow: | ny vern avorow, pub amser pan drig.) Cornish poets today write in every mode from the strictest of tradition to the most uninhibited free verse. Some of the best-known poems have reached a wider audience through being voiced by popular singers such as Brenda Wootton, Graham Sandercock, Mahi vab Dewi, and Gwenno.