POEM: PWLL NOFIO

This poem was found in our document archive. It tells the story of the swimming pool in Brynaman and the people who built and swam in it over the years. It has always been at the heart of this community and it will be again. We will Bring it Back.

Pwll Nofio Brynaman circa1935
PWLL NOFIO

Wall Street had crashed and good men stood in lines.
Men like my father waited for the dole.
In fleapits they had seen the men of Europe
uniformed in black with heads held high,
while lines were formed of other men in grey
to climb aboard the cattle trucks of trains.

Each man held silent thoughts in that dole queue
hesitant to speak or share what they all knew
that high above them wisps of cloud were forming
the cirrus portents of the storm to come
and each man sighed and reached within himself
to memories of khaki and the shells.

As one by one they shuffled cap in hand
toward the table where the men in suits
would judge them ready for Parish relief
“Prepare your speech boy and make it good” she’d said 
“Describe your hungry children with no shoes,
swallow what remains of pride you’re able,
pride doesn’t put a loaf upon the table.”

Together they began to dig a pwll.
Good diggers too Brynaman men. Times past
they’d tunnelled underground for coal.
Still there some of them, left beneath the fall.
They’d dug out half a mountain to get stone
but always for the owners. Trapped
Between the grinding stones of need.

But now they could make something of their own
with pick and shovel they could dig a hole
and shape the land. Something for their children,
their children, and the children long to come.

There was no flesh to spare upon their bones,
no weight to put behind the barrow load,
as day by day the Pwll took shape
until at last, when concreting was done,
and doors were fixed and painted, everyone
could stand and watch as water from the river
began to flow into that clean blue pristine
space, that they together had created.

What shouts as boys unpeeled grey vests
and leapt into the glistening water.
What shrieks from girls who’d come to look them over.

But all too few the summers by the pwll,
too few the winters of their dad’s potatoes
before the time of uniform would come
and boys lined up with men on strange platforms
to be transported and be put before the gun.
And in the nights of battle, as in some hole
they waited for the day, before the dawn
what memory their sapphire pwll,
times past, and wishes for those times again.

And so today a white haired woman stands
and watches as the mums and kids pass by
prams loaded with provision bags from Spar.
She peers through cataracts across the cwm
and can just see the wall around the pwll
and hear the shouts of children as they splash.
“My dad built that,” she says “For them.”

                                    ANON

%d bloggers like this: