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A Magazine for Sheffield

Being Human festival 'Scythian' by Danaé Wellington

Writer, artist and Sheffield's current Poet Laureate Danaé Wellington shares her poem 'Sycthian', commissioned especially for the Writing the Water event as part of this year's Being Human festival.

Danae Wellington

Danaé Wellington at Writing the Water.

Danu is an ancient Scythian word meaning “river”. The commonly proposed etymology of the names of the Danube River, Dnieper River, Dniester River, Don River, and Donets River. Danu (Irish goddess), was the Celtic “Mother Goddess,” an ancestral figure, matriarch, and namesake of the Tuatha dé Danaan (“the peoples of the goddess Danu”)


This city’s mother was born from Pennine rock.
She emerged from mineral spring and
uncurled her young body along Yorkshire moors
and marshland.

Her sisters Loxley, Porter, Rivelin and Sheaf
conspired to build a home for revival,
this way, her people would stay and she
would not be lonely. Her river is
a place where old ghosts linger,
where ancient stories are resurrected
and granted fresh life.

Watching seasons swallow and purge time,
comes with a heaviness filled with goodbyes,
and as she looks on as time passes and grief slips,
she finds laughter and light in the smile of wild boys
chasing thrills, fishing for fat-belly salmon and
calling after blushing women.

Time and people have not always been kind to her:

ravaged by hungry industrial beast, her body
dimmed in colour, grew pale and muddied –
she learned to hide her voice and lost it.
Men with the taste for empire and industry
carved her into concrete, fed her dirty water
and leftovers from the belly of the beast.

They forced her to marry Vulcan, the fire king,
made him father of this town – the overlord of steel gods.
He set fire to her river and she became
Meditarranean sea, turning dirty
water into towering forest of fig trees.

She had a way of coaxing
flowers to grow from the ugliest things.
This gentle forest now stretches
far and wide along the canal,
and claims its land on the riverbank.

It is in her nature to take back what is hers.

Her back garden, filled with valerian,
Balsam and Willow – plenty wildflowers
for days, is apothecary for her children.
She pulls a bath of herbs to break the cold sweat
eating away at their steel strength,
to soften their dog-tired hands.
She hums in the wind songs of Yemen,
songs for her children far from home.
And just like mother’s do, she catches their
slipping feet, and steadys their weariness.

This Scythian goddess, Danu – her name a Celtic
incantation, blooms. She frees herself, loose
along cobble and concrete and does not cease
to dance, spinning under the bridge of a
changing city, she goes to and fro,
minding her children, an Irish
river goddess, ageless, pregnant with names
of places, people and time as perinnial as she:
she calls us, tells us to look,
and whispers Children, do not forget me.

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