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The razor ploughed and rasped,
His hand trembling slightly
And he always shaved twice.
Sometimes, he nicked his neck,
Wrinkled as a turkey’s,
And I watched his blood come.
It always made him smile;

                 from My Grandfather's Razor by Peter Thabit Jones  



















1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Peter Thabit Jones


Welsh poet and dramatist Peter Thabit Jones is the author of fourteen books, several of which have been reprinted and four published in Romania. His work has been translated into over twenty languages. He is the recipient of the Eric Gregory Award for Poetry (The Society of Authors, UK), The Society of Authors Award, The Royal Literary Fund Award (UK), and an Arts Council of Wales Award. He was awarded the 2016 Ted Slade Award for Service to Poetry by The Poetry Kit (UK), the 2017 Shabdaguchha Poetry Award (USA), the 2017 Homer: European Medal for Art and Poetry, and the 2020 Cross-Cultural Communications Literary Award (USA).  


In March 2008 Peter’s American publisher, Stanley H. Barkan, organised a six week poetry reading tour of America for Peter and Dylan Thomas’s daughter, Aeronwy. Peter is also the co-author, with Aeronwy, of the Dylan Thomas Walking Tour of Greenwich Village, New York.


His poem Kilvey Hill has been incorporated into a permanent stained-glass window at Saint Thomas Community School in Swansea. In April 2014, he was inducted into the Phi Sigma Iota Society at Salem State University, Massachusetts, for his contribution to literature and literary translation.s


His chamber opera libretto, Ermesinde’s Long Walk, for Luxembourg composer Albena Petrovic, premiered at the Philarmonie Luxembourg in 2017 and at the National Opera House Stara Zagora in 2018. His full opera libretto for her, with Svetla Georgieva, Love and Jealousy, premiered at the National Opera House Stara Zagora in Bulgaria in 2018, at the Théâtre National Du Luxembourg in 2019 and at the International Festival “Sofia Music Week”, Bulgaria, in September 2020.


He has resided at Big Sur, California, as writer-in-residence for two months each summer from 2011 to 2019.  His drama The Fire in the Wood, about Big Sur sculptor Edmund Kara, premiered at the Actors Studio of Newburyport in Massachusetts in 2017 and at the Henry Miller Library and the Carl Cherry Center in California in 2018.


Further information: www.peterthabitjones.com   








(for my grandmother)


I used his razor once;
Aged fifteen, face fluff-haired,
I locked the bathroom door.
I soaped my brown boy’s face
And held the loaded tool.
I recalled how he shaved,
Pillow-propped up in bed:
The bed in the parlour.
His sunk shoulders towelled,
His brush tickled the soap,
Until his Auschwitz face
Had a beard of snow;
I held the square mirror.
The razor ploughed and rasped,
His hand trembling slightly
And he always shaved twice.
Sometimes, he nicked his neck,
Wrinkled as a turkey’s,
And I watched his blood come.
It always made him smile;
And cigarette paper
Blotted dry the blemish.
The ritual over
He swilled clean his smooth face:
Hair, like iron filings,
Tide-marking the white bowl.
That first time, when I shaved ,
Afraid of the new blade,
I removed more than hair:
As downy as a girl’s.
For I knew, as I worked,
My hand trembling slightly,
I was shaving away
The softness of boyhood;
I would leave the bathroom
Feeling more like a man.
And my reflection smiled
When the blade caught my skin:
For from my snow beard
I watched adult blood come




Stones take to each other naturally,

Like a family of sleeping creatures,


The large ones accommodate little ones,

To create a colony of hardness;


They rest in centuries of stark stillness;

They are elephant-heavy to lush grass.


Their colours employ the afternoon sun;

They are as warm as loaves from an oven.


Each one embodies its personal death;

They are cobbled memories of the sea;


They are the solid language of labour:

Each one weathered to a perfect image.


They rest, innocent of their history,

Like a grey display of featureless skulls.


They have tasted our sweat and absorbed our blood.

They rise and fall, symbols of man’s conscience.


Their persistence has sculptured their silence;

They hint that their souls haunt other planets.


They are magnets for our primitive thoughts;

They are the armour of truths beyond us.


They shape our built fears of an afterlife,

They could tempt us into acts of worship.




(for Vince and Annie Clemente)


You were born glowing
And when the green bird
Landed on you
It left all its songs.

But you preferred silence,
The raindrop of a thought
Shining on a leaf,
A shadow statued in prayer.

The crowds waited like a river,
The poetry of your soul
Would silver the desert,
The aeons of poverty.

You sent them a stone,
They built you a tomb.
You pointed to the moon,
They broke all their mirrors.

Words shone like stars in your mind;
They were not to be sung.
Silence surrounded you
Like the perfume of flowers.

You breathed in the universe,
As you shed each moment
As stiff as a snake
That’s mesmerised by light.

On the edge of morning,
They found you perfected.
You’d made it to god.
They cut down a tree.

You died in the darkness
But glowing inside:
The bright songs of the green bird
Had flown from your mouth.




I cuddle the streets in the cloud of my shadow,

The water of the bay dredges my thoughts.

Do the centuries regard me as god

As I tease the free moon for moments of heaven?


The patchwork of my fields steals the black breath of the grass

That floods the eyes of the refugee fox.

The birds, disturbed, are the words of the wind

And the graveyard of the dead worships my silence.


I am forever unbolting the night from the day,

Unsettling my trees that grip at the truth.

Tomorrow my strength will shoulder the sun,

As the Everest of myself darkens all life.


Who would dare walk along the spine of my midnight,

Dizzy below the stained-glass of the stars?

Only the farmer married to the dawn

As he quarries the moon in a bucket of sky.





Rented, the houses

Were scented

With poverty,


A cold row

Of reality

Studded on a hill


That moped for some greenness.

Your star’s car

Whirred through the streets


You’d forgotten,

Behind the blindfold

Of wealth


That came wrapped

In your marriage.

Blonde as Monroe,


You high-heeled

Into our parlour,

To leave a treasure


Of rich treats

For your humbled mother

And your dying father.


Then you were gone

With a smile like summer

And the room seemed darker,


As a fever of love



A burning boy’s






What did we expect so close to a field?                    

The frenzied wreck of bin bags was a clue;                    

Frayed bursts of fist holes in bloated polythene.                    

Then the glimpse of brown back and fleshy tail,                   

As it slunk to its place in our bunkered wood.


RAT. The rodent word scurried in our brains,                    

Filthy as road drains, sewage-pawed, sly, and quick                    

As a dark glance from the corner of the eye;                    

It swam the canal of my childhood fears,                    

Joined the dank rats that rummaged on the banks.


A cannibal that’s almost ten inches,                    

A rat will feed on the living and the dead:                    

It will chew the carcass of a cow, devour                    

The frail beauty of a nest of wren’s eggs.                    

A rat will eat the shadow of itself.


I looked for new holes in the outside walls,                   

Checked the old shed for rat-size entrances,                    

Bolted the windows and locked all the doors.                    

I set the bait of poison on a plate:                    

A cereal of blue, oval pellets.


From behind the curtain, we watched it feed;

Cautiously, then greedily. Out and in,                    

Out and in like a dirty, clockwork toy.                    

Animal voyeurs, we watched it dining,                    

Shifting the small plate with a nervous tinkle.


Then a loose mob of cats, our neighbour's pets.,                   

Crept through our garden and lolled on the wall;                    

Aware of the creature in the stone bunker,                    

They kept a still guard: a fur sculpture of cats                    

With the patience of cool, vermin-hunters.

I put down food until it did not come,

Until the heap of killing pellets remained:                    

Losing their true colour on a day of rain,                    

An unwanted breakfast of oat-pale seeds.                    

We took it in turn to watch the bunker.


I waited three days, then I cleared the wood.                    

“They go for the neck,” I said quietly.                     

“It’s dead,” you assured. “It’s bound to be dead."                    

I looked for a corpse like a lopped dog's tail:                    

Or a sloppy, ugly dart for freedom.          


I found no dead rat, only its leavings.        

You scalded the back with bleached, hot water.        

A week gone and the rat is still with us,        

Running on the edge of our shredded lives.        

In the garden we watch for blurred movements.


Tonight the bedroom could be the bunker;        

For as I undressed, the dark hid a rat.        

The rat I tried to catch is in my skull,        

Gnawing in the corners that are not clean.        

Its meal is my thoughts, a week’s residue,


Caught in the warm night's enormous, black trap.        

The rat has come through a hole in my dream.        

It eats into my sleep for a last feed;        

It nests in a memory in my head,        

Discarding a mess, a plague of rat things.



You brought your troubles
With you: the almost-empty
Pockets of your poverty;
The tarnished wedding-ring

Of your worn love for Helen;
The mind’s shelves of commissioned
far too many.
It’s said you looked down

At Lower Swansea Valley,
The hell-smouldering
Far sprawl of tall
Choking factories.

Was your mind a mess,
A trench of dark thoughts
That stretched away
From reality.

The jigsaw of Europe
Was breaking apart,
Young men queuing
To wear the King’s khaki.

You returned to England,
To your nest of worries
The sparks of the war
Burning possibilities

Then Robert Frost coaxed
Your mind towards poetry.



Heron, hunch-backed,

Drab chapel-grey,

Bedraggled loner,

Still as a statue

On guard, staring

Away and stood

In a calmness

Perfected since birth.


What is a moment

In unbothered composure?

The ridiculous legs,

The ungainly posture,

The dagger of a beak

Too big for its head,

A bit of a tramp,

A second-hand bird.


Yet the flap into flight

Becomes an expert glide,

A serious focus,

A hunting ride,

A visual beauty

Snapped by the tourists,

As his wide wings seem

To dream across


His stretch of heaven.





(for Bill and Patricia)


The bald, beige scrub spreads out for miles and miles.

We see the occasional thirsty trees


And the run-down impoverished homesteads.

It’s a wasteland for tired tourists’ eyes,


For truckers steering long hauls through the day.
The mountains as lyrical as sand dunes—


The endless sprawling deadness of it all.    

We speed down the tarred road, slicing landscape


That’s dried out to its depths, useless as rust.

The strange beauty of great nature’s despair,


Barren narrative, the mind’s sleeping Blues.

Yet there’s a motel, a station for gas,


As the traffic, both ways, goes passing through:

Home, the destination, colours our thoughts


In this place that’s as desolate as Mars

The persistent sun has debased its growth.


There is not a single bird in the sky:

The sky has accepted the settled dust.


Now and again, we see cacti standing

Like naked scarecrows, a bunch of boulders


As big as cars and close to the roadside.

We stop for rest rooms and refreshing drinks.


We feel the furnace-blast of heated air,

98 degrees, as we leave the car.


After the break, we hit the road again,

With hours of desert miles to unfold,


Having left Las Vegas all to itself:

A garish city of such fake splendour.


In seated weariness and in silence,

We make our way to far Monterey.





He is already a hundred years old.                              

Barely nine, his eyes slowly drown                                


In his sudden tears as his brown fingers                      

Tremble below the wound of his lips.                             


His thoughts walk through the dust memories            

Of destruction, the bomb-collapsed                                  


Building where his parents, three brothers                   

And his two sisters were killed.                                          


He is alone in the world.  Alone with his fears.              

His small bag of experiences is already full.


The Western reporter and cameraman                             

Will go back to their hotel and stitch together                 


Yet another war story, while the boy will wander           

His devastated city, where horror                                         


Is piled on horror, where planes scratch                               

The night sky and break up the morning.                             


He shakes his dark head, he is lost for words,                      

As his eyes stare through the flesh                                           


Of so-called civilization                                                                

To the foul and bloodied bones of reality.                            





MY GRANDFATHER’S RAZOR -  Published in The Lizard Catchers by Peter Thabit Jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2006

STONES – Published in Garden of Clouds/New and Selected Poems by Peter Thabit Jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2020

THE GREEN BIRD – Published in The Lizard Catchers by Peter Thabit Jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2006

EASTSIDE HILL - Published in Garden of Clouds/New and Selected Poems by Peter Thabit Jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2020

AUNT - Published in Garden of Clouds/New and Selected Poems by Peter Thabit jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2020

RAT - Published in Garden of Clouds/New and Selected Poems by Peter Thabit jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2020

EDWARD THOMAS IN SWANSEA - Published in Garden of Clouds/New and Selected Poems by Peter Thabit jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2020

HERON: MONTEREY WHARF, CALIFORNIA - Published in Garden of Clouds/New and Selected Poems by Peter Thabit jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2020

DRIVING THROUGH THE MOJAVE DESERT - Published in Garden of Clouds/New and Selected Poems by Peter Thabit jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2020

WAR CHILD - Published in Garden of Clouds/New and Selected Poems by Peter Thabit jones (Cross-Cultural Communications, USA), 2020


4 - Afterword

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