It’s awful pretty: Dylan Thomas

Welsh poet and playwright Dylan Thomas, with h...

Image via Wikipedia

His poems sound so wonderful! I don’t want to just like this poet, I want to love him. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what he’s smoking.

Looking over his bio, it appears he smoked and drank just about everything. He lived the rock star lifestyle they expected of poets back in the thirties, boozing and sleeping his way around the Europe and America. He wrote a lot of plays and took part in their production, but was notoriously undependable about showing up. He was a party boy–rude, boorish, loud and most often falling over drunk.

I found a book of Dylan Thomas’ poems at the library when I was sorting donations and bought it for $1, and I’ve been trying to read it. I see patterns. I get images. I make some sense of individual lines, and occasionally stanzas. But the gist of these poems escapes me, so far at least. Ah me, another poet I’m too stupid to understand! Let me just stick my tail between my legs and try for another high score on Panda Poets (an absurdly addictive word game on Kindle) and try to unshred my self-esteem.

One thing about Thomas is that, even though his poems sound marvelous, I hate to read them out loud. I want them in Man-voice–with a Welsh accent, if you’ve got one handy.

I’m just going to type out a whole poem, and hope that something besides syllable counts and a vague theme of filling empty places stands out as I do type.

Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines
by Dylan Thomas

Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides;
And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads,
The things of light
File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.

A candle in the thighs
Warms youth and seed and burns the seeds of age;
Where no seed stirs,
The fruit of man unwrinkles in the stars,
Bright as a fig;
Where no wax is, the candle shows its hairs.

Dawn breaks behind the eyes;
From poles of skull and toe the windy blood
Slides like a sea;
Nor fenced, nor staked, the gushers of the sky
Spout to the rod
Divining in a smile the oil of tears.

Night in the sockets rounds,
Like some pitch moon, the limit of the globes;
Day lights the bone;
Where no cold is, the skinning gales unpin
The winter’s robes;
The film of spring is hanging from the lids.

Light breaks on secret lots,
On tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain;
When logics die,
The secret of the soil grows through the eye,
And blood jumps in the sun;
Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.


Mmmmmm. Not getting much, but a few things:

1. It has to do with aging.
2. I’m not the only person who uses a lot of semicolons.
3. The images and mood come through distinctly, even if the “logics die” before I ever find them.
4. The word choices keep surprising me all the way through. I would never in a million years have thought of some of those verbs.
5. More or less iambic.

I have no following poem in mind. I’m just going to close my eyes and type.

Prayer Flags

Marriage makes the bed to die
From seasons in the years of rusted cloth;
A linen shroud
With fear to break the wings of lust and care;
And play no more;
The middles lost in voices on the wind.

When pulled down on the floor
Once clean, enlightened traceries in light
Made winter warm;
In breath the sainted travesties in time
Remained the frame
Of interests and mountains greenly fought.

When white shakes out of gauze
In flag-whip gusts of memorized replies,
My love and I
Take consternation at the nearish miss;
Remove the hearts
to lie asleep on pillows wound in snow.

Gray wounded weathers rise;
The unmarked frozen miles of dearest land,
In bursts of flesh,
Of promises that miss the lips of gods,
Partake the sheets
That can’t conceal the riddle side of two.

Vacant prayers arise
To satiate the jaws that limit force of air;
Toil unto death;
Imprint two signatures atop the sun;
Ice memorized,
Divorcing jumps the rocks and falls like sounds.


Okay, there you have it. I know what I was thinking when I wrote it. But how would anybody else every figure it out?

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