Top left an angel
hovering. Top right the attendance
of a star. From both
bottom corners devils
look up, relishing
in prospect a divine
meal. How old at the centre
the child's face gazing
into love's too human
face, like one prepared
for it to have its way
and continue smiling?
By R. S. Thomas
from Counterpoint 2. Incarnation (1990)
The Nativity? No.
Something has gone wrong.
There is a hole in the stable
acid rain drips through
onto an absence. Beauty
is hoisted upside down.
The truth is Pilate not
lingering for an answer.
The angels are prostrate
'beaten into the clay'
as Yeats thundered. Only Satan beams down,
poisoning with fertilisers
the place where the child
lay, harrowing the ground
for the drumming of the machine-
gun tears of the rich that are
seed of the next war.
By R. S. Thomas
from Counterpoint (1990) 2. Incarnation
I didn't know him,
the man who jumped from the bridge.
But I saw the parabola
of long-drawn-out falling in the brown
eyes of his wife week after week
at the supermarket cash-out.
We would quietly ask "How is he?"
hear of the hospital's white
care, the corridors between her
and the broken man in the bed,
and the doctors who had no words,
no common supermarket women's talk.
Only after the funeral
I knew how he'd risen, wild
from his chair and told her
he was going out to die.
Very slowly from the first leap
he fell through winter, through the cold
of Christmas, wifely silences,
the blue scare of ambulance,
from his grave on the motorway
to the hospital, two bridges down.
A season later in a slow cortège
he has reached the ground.
by Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)
Pentwyn is a district, community and electoral ward in the east of Cardiff, Wales, located northeast of the city centre. Llanedeyrn is immediately to the south, Cyncoed to the west, Pontprennau to the north and the Rhymney River forms the eastern border.
This story of this poem is true albeit half heard from people talking about it and half learned from the local newspaper. The Pentwyn Bridge of the title carries a road over a dual carriageway in Cardiff. Asthe peom narrates a man told his terrified wife he was going out to kill himself. He jumped from the bridge and was severely injured then taken to hospital. Many months later, having never left hospital in the meantime, he finally died.
The moon is born
and a child is born,
lying among white clothes
as the moon among clouds
They both shine, but
the light from the one
is abroad in the universe
as among broken glass.
by R. S. Thomas
from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)
They came over the snow to the bread's
pure snow, fumbled it in their huge
hands, put their lips to it
like beasts, stared into the dark chalice
where the wine shone, felt it sharp
on their tongue, shivered as at a sin
remembered, and heard love cry
momentarily in their hearts' manager.
They rose and went back to their poor
holdings, naked in the bleak light
of December. Their horizon contracted
to the one small, stone-riddled field
with its tree, where the weather was nailing
the appalled body that had not asked to be born.
by R. S. Thomas
from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)