In the middle of Grahame Davies's poetry workshop at Canolfan Soar (Merthyr's Welsh Language Centre), we upped and walked together along High Street searching for ideas. Scaffolding was prominent and the noise of drilling and clanking filled the afternoon air.
Standing in Dic Penderyn Square ( or Red Square!) and gazing at the splendid Redhouse building it was possible to imagine the town undergoing a revival of sorts, not least because some of the words we were composing that afternoon would eventually end up on the paving-stones between Redhouse and Soar.
But nothing's as straightforward as an impression formed by an afternoon full of the possibility of Spring.
Whenever I see Redhouse I can't help thinking about the way our Poetry Open Mic was forced by Merthyr's Leisure Trust ( who run the arts now) into holding events there and then they stopped our grant because we weren't raising enough money!
You can spend a small fortune renovating a building, but that doesn't mean it will flourish.
A journey between the two Poles of the Imp (Imperial Hotel) and the Crown Inn shows how High Street reflects all the contrasting and conflicting forces in the town.
You could begin at Pontmorlais Circus, a grand name indicating former glories : once a tram hub and the grandeur of Theatre Royal, which was our AM Huw Lewis' pet project, but which has long fallen into dilapidation.
The promenade has buildings adjacent which resonate history, such as the Masonic Hall, the YMCA ( now, at last , being renovated ) and the old Dole Exchange.
An arts project involving Lottery money suggests that the YMCA will connect with the people and their stories, but Redhouse ( or Old Town Hall) did the selfsame thing when it began.
The Morlais pub is hardly recognisable in its dereliction and ,sadly, the jewellers Flooks is now closed down, emptied of its cafe, homeless charity and craft displays.
Roller- blinds are ubiquitous along High Street and a useful art project would be to ask local graffiti-artists to liven them up with tags and bubbles.
Owned by Jose (from France) and Marliese ( who is German) , who encourage our events there, the Imp is a beacon. Last Thursday was no exception and local poet Phil Howells was on form, with his first collection just out, 'Obscured by Clouds'. It was a wonderful evening, with well-known Welsh writers reading alongside many locals.
There's much sadness thinking about the shops which used to thrive at the top of town, solid and dependable local ones such as Chris Jenkins, who sold electrical appliances.
The day Chris Jenkins died , the tv I bought there imploded as if from a heart-attack.....a strange coincidence!
As you walk down High Street, the largest building by far is Merthyr Voluntary Action.
There are Tattoo, Body Piercing, Beauty and Hair Salons.....preening of the body always in demand and the most popular businesses in many Valleys' towns.
Another empty shop has one poster in the window - KEEP CALM AND LOVE HONEY BEES.
Plants grow on window-sills and the main feature of the second-hand shop is the kit for a large red aeroplane.
Our two Indian restaurants look shut, but open evenings, with the distinctive Moksh being full of Buddhist icons.
Long closed down, the Chinese restaurant Hing Hong's still has its sign intact (see Robert Haines' photo), although the meals are now NESE and ENGLISH.
Before that, in an alleyway to the right, is Soar, with a converted chapel made into theatre and studios and a centre with offices, cafe, bookshop and many rooms.
It is the place of my Welsh classes , has the best bookshop in town ( okay....it's the only one!) and Caffi Cwtsh, where you can tuck into bara brith and admire the artwork of local artist Kevin Mee on every wall.
I met Kevin at Grahame Davies' workshop, where he wrote some lines and illustrated his work superbly. It was characteristic of his work : swirling Celtic patterns and the gentle face of a young woman.
The Mabinogi and famous song 'Myfanwy' (composed by Merthyr's Joseph Parry) both feature strongly in his drawings : there's a stillness and grace to them which is a rarity nowadays.
They seem simultaneously ancient and modern.
Strolling along to the accompaniment of building work, there are memories of Bray's sweet-makers tucked away down a 'gwli'.
Recently, a Turkish Barbers has opened and a Continental Store run by Turks.
Hope Chapel's propped by scaffolding like an old fella kept up by his walking-stick.
As you enter Redhouse two posters stand out : one for the band Madness in Cyfarthfa Castle in August and another for a local artists night in Redhouse and featuring the excellent Kizzy Crawford.
The exhibition space to the right is closed to the public due to a meeting.
Inside is the latest exhibition of photos by Heolgerrig photographer Robert Haines.
One section displays his older ones from 'Once Upon a Time in Wales', while the other his new project 'This Time in Wales'. He hopes to publish the latter just as he did the former.
There are so many shades of black and white.
Haines is never overtly political, never looking for an angled statement, yet implicit in his many portraits of Merthyr folk is a fascination with everything that constitutes the town....and so, humanity.
Side by side are exotic individuals like the hard man with 'Built for Brutality' tattoed across his back, and everyday ones like the man standing at his gate with his Jack Russell next to him.
Haines captures the essence of their spirit : amongst faults there is depth and compassion; sometimes hardness hides sensitivity.
I really enjoyed the slide-show of photos not in the exhibition, despite my presence in it!
The two photos of legendary Heolgerrig bus-driver Ron are what the best photos should be : universal moments.
Outside Redhouse were a couple of people smoking and the man looked familiar.
He greeted me with his name 'Mark Boucher' ( I used to teach him) and , heading into Redhouse, told me - ' I'm now a teacher, but still bunkin!'
With a plaque to working-class martyr Dic Penderyn outside, the Library also resonates history.
Its interior is rather disappointing though, as Welsh books have been brushed away upstairs and the Leslie Norris Room seems like the one sop to a town with such a rich literary tradition.
How about a Museum of Merthyr Literature here, as well as a hub for book launches and workshops?
It is Friday, not a market day and emptiness fills the street and questions its very purpose.
Plas Coffi serves the best coffee in town : a black building where they specialise in burgers and pizzas. The building has been a Berni Inn, Burger King then McDonald's and is now in its most promising manifestation.
Walking towards the Crown there are memories of shops like Woolies and pubs like the Great Western.
The shut-down Reboot shop needs rebooting and a tree grows from a large crack in its facade.
The Outlet shop announces 'Liquidation Stock Clearance' and, like so many other town centres, Pound and Charity shops dominate.
The Crown has a lively selection of entertainment every week, from karoake to jazz.
This old coaching inn is owned by a Portuguese man Jorge and a glass case full of custardy cakes stands out by the bar.
The Open Mic acoustic nights there can be truly inspirational.
I could end at Lucy Thomas Fountain and another wide space which can temporarily house various celebrations like Dic Penderyn Square, but I'll return to that workshop and lines which came after, which will never be put up in the area which saw many killed during the 1831 Rising.
We need a memorial to these people, who were martyrs as much as Dic Penderyn.
In this poem I'm thinking of the Rising festival and its importance to the town..........
Ble mae’r enwau’r pedwerydd ar hugain,
gafodd eu saethu gan y fyddin?
Yng ngwaed y grwpiau ar y llwyfan,
yng ngeiriau cryf y caneuon.
Where are the names of the twenty-four,
killed by the army in this square?
In the blood of the groups singing
and strong words in the air ringing.