My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.
And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.
My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread; like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.
He holds the wire from this box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
And the hunger’s emperor;
He pulls that chain, the cistern moves.
by Dylan Thomas
from 18 Poems
Fun fact: People speculate that this poem is about teenage mastrubation in the solitude of the toilet ever on the verge of being discovered. Meanwhile others think it’s about his writing pen… well up until the latter half.
We remember wartime
The leaves were red
And skies were tight.
Singers in uniform
Cracked burst buckled
The living the key workers
The throats of loyal trumpets
The minds of washed out cockpits
Our prayers were pistons
Our leaders in bunkers
As indestructable as rats
The tongues and necks
Of true survivors
In one cold wood
A headless boy
A thin man prays
In his own blood
On every side
Wait to be counted
In old blood
Are not doors
They are the walls
Of empty tombs
At stated times
By true survivors
by Emyr Humphreys
Fun fact: He registered as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, working on a farm, and later doing relief work in Egypt and Italy. After the war he worked as a teacher, as a radio producer at the BBC and later became a lecturer in drama at Bangor University.
The gay day flames. The grass is still.
Like greedy impotence, poppies rise,
like lips that lust and poison fill,
like wings of scarlet butteflies.
The gay day flames… The garden now
is empty. Lust and feast are done.
Like heads of hags, the poppies bow
beneath the bright cup of the sun.
by Иннокентий Фёдорович Анненский (Innokenty Fyodorovich Annensky)
translated by C. M. Bowra
Fun extra: Here is the poem performed in Russian.
I still find charm in little accidental
trifles, empty little things –
say, in a novel without end or title,
or in this rose, now wilting in my hands.
I like its moiré petals, dappled
with trembling silver drops of rain –
and how I found it on the sidewalk,
and how I’ll toss it in a garbage can.
by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)
translated by Boris Dralyuk
Easter. The grave clothes of winter
are still here, but the sepulchre
is empty. A messenger
from the tomb tells us
how a stone has been rolled
from the mind, and a tree lightens
the darkness with its blossom.
There are travellers upon the roads
who have heard music blown
from a bare bough, and a child
tells us how the accident
of last year, a machine stranded
beside the way for lack
of petrol is covered with flowers.
by R. S. Thomas