Helen Williams
Helen Williams

Helen May Williams is a poet and author, living in West Wales. She has written extensively on twentieth-century poetry and formerly taught at the University of Warwick, where she was a founder member of the Warwick Writing Programme Advisory Board. She runs the Poetry Society’s Carmarthen-based Stanza group and is an active member of Penfro Poets.  She recently completed a translation of Michel Onfray’s "Before Silence" ("Avant le Silence"), a volume of 21st century haiku.  Her poems have appeared in numerous poetry journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, "The Princess of Vix" is due for publication by Three Drops Press, Summer 2017. 

princess of vix

Her diminutive size, unusual gait and twisted face, reminders of a difficult birth . . .
Early morning dew
    hangs on the unripe figs,
the door sticks in the lintel
    as she leaves the sleeping house.
Her bare soles feel the chill cobbles:
    she breathes deep, then
balanced on the balls of her feet
    she starts to run.
Her pace quickens with each jolt, each stride
    till she reaches the flat field, and
pounds through fescue and blood-red poppies,
seed pods scattering as she brushes past.
The lead sky hangs above the hill fort,
    blanches like a mute, sick child;
its taut tendons probed and stretched by dawn’s
sanguine fingers, it flushes a febrile amaranth.
Each foot lifts through the milky mist
    then lowers to clammy earth:
she circles the yawning field,
    beats a track in the brooding grass,
gazes beyond the alleys, beyond the ochre roofs,
    straight at the straddling sky,
a naked, crippled runner
    hip-bones grating and pelvis still awry.

This poem is about the main protagonist in this sequence about a 500 BC Celtic Princess or Shaman, whose remains were found at the small village of Vix, Burgundy. Like me, she had physical deformities — in my case osteoarthritis since early childhood. When the kids were little, I always went jogging very early in the morning, until my G.P. told me to stop because it aggravated my condition. In this poem, I imagine her doing the same as me, two and a half millennia ago; however, she isn’t told to stop doing it by her G.P.!

Read an interview with Helen on Judith Barrow's Blog