Songs from 'The Glass Aisle'

'The Glass Aisle' is a long poem set on a stretch of the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal. It was conceived with the support of an Arts Council of Wales 'Creative Wales Award.'

This page features extracts from a performance version of the poem and its songs, co-written with acclaimed singer-songwriter Brian Briggs, frontman of the band Stornoway. Hear Paul & Brian's @GreenManradio 2018 choices here.

A haunting elegy to the displaced, the work crosses borders between poem and song lyric.

Fragments from 'The Glass Aisle'

I'll walk you to the bridge, Mary
where we sheltered from the years.
Along a canal's infinite cloisters
I'll walk you with rain in our eyes
to the village sleeping in its blur
and the bridge, with small echoes
on our lips.

                      The act of sheltering
is enough. From rusty vaulting
drip syllables of prayer.
They whisper nothing of belief.
Can we ever be settled here?

Mary's Bridge:

words and music by Brian Briggs & Paul Henry
vocals and guitars - Brian & Paul
produced by Jon Ouin

And each leaf must fall,
some to the bank,
some to the water

the one that clings
and the one that lets go

the one that hides a song,
the one that flirts
with a sneezing wind

the one that grows
beyond itself, its pallor
a ghost of green.

Each leaf must fall,
crazy paving
the canal's cellar ...

Each Leaf Must Fall:

words and music by Brian Briggs & Paul Henry
vocals and guitars - Brian & Paul
produced by Jon Ouin

Mary, some nights I see you

between the giant redwood and the kilns,
half-immersed - Millais' Ophelia,
the summer's flowers in your outstretched hand ...

I stop and think I hear a woman's voice
inside the reeds, at the wilder bend
where a river passes under the canal

until words become water again,
and I move on, along the darkening aisle.

How did your stillness find me?

A late boat moors, its farrier's ghost
hammering steel pegs into the night.

Mary, some nights I see you:

words and music by Brian Briggs & Paul Henry
vocal, hammer, trowel and crowbar - Brian
produced by Jon Ouin

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