The Iron Bridge by Val Bowden

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Illustration of iron bridge with text, "The Iron Bridge By Val Bowden"

Val Bowden is a teacher, pianist and poet. She was born in Tongwynlais and lived in the village until 1970. Val has written about her life in the village and been a fantastic source of information about life in the Ton.

She has been writing poetry for over 30 years and published “Wading through Deep Water – the Parkinson’s Anthology” in 2001. The book was edited by Tony Curtis and includes work by Seamus Heaney, Margaret Attwood and Andrew Morton.

Val was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1988. She told Parkinson’s Art, “[poetry] has developed in me a calmer, reflective, less hurried approach to life”.

The Iron Bridge by Val Bowden

It seems a thousand years since last I had stood on the bridge,
Looking, though not seeing what I see today.
Beneath me, under the broken, wooden planks on which I stood
I had watched a black, matt mass, in flow, carrying the dark sweat
Of valley men, long imprisoned in Earth’s bowels.
Could life have existed in the tarry filth, wending its way relentlessly to the sea?
Neither did I see the gossamer, iron lacework wrought by human hand.
Nor wonder how man could shape such beauty in an iron bridge.

Then, all my eyes surveyed was just a bridge over the Taff,
Merely two crude walkways straddling parallel iron tracks.
Then, looking upstream, I had missed the colours that abounded:
The red, precipitous face of the gorge, annunciating the valley ahead.
Clothed in vibrant hues of the ever changing leaves.
I felt no remorse for the loss of life that for years had spawned there.
I was not shamed for the filth that man had caused to flow,
Marring the beauty of the life that swam beneath that iron bridge.

But, today, I saw with new eyes, all I had missed a life ago.
Today, beneath me the black mass had been transformed.
A transparent, sparkling river had been born since last I was there.
Dazed by the beauty of the network of iron threads around me,
I looked up and saw the grandness of the magnificent folly,
Castell Coch, the Red Castle, on guard, a sentry, high above the Taff.
I could see for the first time, with the same, yet different eyes!
I perceived the beauty and the wonder of the iron bridge.

About Jack Davies

Founder and editor of Tongwynlais.com and CastellCoch.com.

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