Poem for Aberfan

In 2016, Welsh poets Grahame Davies and Tony Curtis were commissioned to write a Sequence of poems, entitled Aberfan Voices, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster.  Each poem goes with a photograph by IC Rapoport.  This is the second of two posts introducing Grahame and Tony, sharing one each of their poems.

Both Tony and Grahame are serving as humanities scholars for my project Aberfan.  I am deeply honored and grateful for their participation in its unfolding and fullest, true expression.

Here is “Life”, written by Grahame Davies.


Life is too big,

though children never know –

their world a nature-table, miniature,

seeds on a tray, a garden in a jar,

four walls of cut-out prints of autumn leaves

and a calendar that counts to Christmas.

Life is too big.

They never tell you that.

You’re never wise enough, never mature.

Take it from me:

your heart is never big enough

to hold it all – the deluge of the dark.

Stars are too distant

and the griefs too great.

Life is too big.

We try to make it fit

our columns and our canvases,

our lenses and our lines,

to make the immeasurable commensurate

with what we can contain:

words on a page,

a garden in a jar.

On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

Photo IC Rapoport,  1966

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