Here is the soldier home from the War, sailing into Cardiff. He’s startled after Palestine by the colours on the ridge, dead bracken, glossy, like wet army cottons, purple coppice he can’t identify, the mossy green of fir trees that weren’t there when he volunteered.
The cold cuts through the suit bought from the tallest of the Lascars, the cuffs, inches short of his wrists, expose his skin, now as dark as theirs, but collier-white before he went. He looks like them, but Christ, he’d hardly kept up. Only pennies rub in his pocket – the captain had skint him, the Scotch bastard.
Posted missing back at Easter, he’d not written, couldn’t risk the censor checking on his letter. He’ll stay on board till it’s dark, jump the wall, thread the back streets north, then – the freedom of the frozen tracks – up and over the top, past the hill farms’ yowling sentries, down to the town where ghosts parade.
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.
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