Countering by R. S. Thomas

Then there is the clock's

commentary, the continuing

prose that is the under-current

of all poetry. We listen

to it as, on a desert island,

men do to the subdued

music of their blood in a shell.


Then take my hand that is

of the bone the island

is made of, and looking at

me say what time it is

on love's face, for we have

no business here other than

to disprove certainties the clock knows.


by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)
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Amen by R. S. Thomas

It was all arranged:

the virgin with child, the birth

in Bethlehem, the arid journey uphill

to Jerusalem. The prophets foretold

it, the scriptures conditioned him

to accept it. Judas went to his work

with his sour kiss; what else

could he do?

A wise old age,

the honours awarded for lasting,

are not for a saviour. He had

to be killed; salvation acquired

by an increased guilt. The tree,

with its roots in the mind’s dark,

was divinely planted, the original fork

in existence. There is no meaning in life,

unless men can be found to reject

love. God needs his martyrdom.

The mild eyes stare from the Cross

in perverse triumph. What does he care

that the people’s offerings are so small?

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)

‘What’s War? What’s Plague…’ by Anna Akhmatova

What’s war? What’s plague? We know that they will pass,

Judgement is passed, we see an end to them.

But which of us can cope with this fear, this –

The terror that is named the flight of time?

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

Komarovo, 9 September (1964)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

Stallion by Mike Jenkins

When the night’s stallion

approaches us over the yellowing fields,

we see shafts of lonliness

in his eyes. The last wild flowers

have gone with the mares

he whinnied to, over the high-barred gate.

 

A barbed mockery of thorn-trees

and the two of us – jesting to catch

leaves feathering down – share

the hillside with the coal-hewn stallion.

 

Once, he had broken free, his spine

bridging the moor and the village,

hooves clicking the tongues of sleep.

Now, pushing flanks against staked branches,

he mules his raked flesh.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Invisible Times

Lore by R. S. Thomas

Job Davies, eighty-five

Winters old, and still alive

After the slow poison

and treachery of the seasons.

 

Miserable? Kick my arse!

It needs more than the rain’s hearse,

Wind-drawn to pull me off

The great perch of my laugh.

 

What’s living but courage?

Paunch full of hot porridge,

Nerves strengthened with tea,

Peat-black dawn found me

 

Mowing where the grass grew,

Bearded with golden dew.

Rhythm of the long scythe

Kept this tall frame lithe.

 

What to do? Stay green.

Never mind the machine,

Whose fuel is human souls.

Live large, man, and dream small.

 

by R.S. Thomas

Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

by William Shakespeare