Barn Owl by R. S. Thomas

i.

Mostly it is a pale

face hovering in the afterdraught

of the spirit, making both ends meet

on a scream. It is the breath

of the churchyard, the forming

of white frost in a believer,

when he would pray; it is soft

feathers camouflaging a machine.

 

It repeats itself year

after year in its offspring,

the staring pupils it teaches

its music to, that is the voice

of God in the darkness cursing himself

fiercely for his lack of love.

 

ii.

and there the owl happens

like white frost as

cruel and as silent

and the time on its

blank face is not

now so the dead

have nothing to go

by and are fast

or slow but never punctual

as the alarm is

over their bleached bones

of its night-strangled cry.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from The Way of It  (1977)

Bread by R. S. Thomas

Hunger was lonliness, betrayed

By the pitiless cadour of the stars’

Talk, in an old byre he prayed

 

Not for food; to pray was to know

Waking from a dark dream to find

The white loaf on the white snow;

 

Not for warmth, warmth brought the rain’s

Blurring of the essential point

Of ice probing his raw pain.

 

He prayed for love, love that would share

His rags’ secret; rising he broke

Like sun crumbling the gold air

 

The live bread for the starved folk.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry For Supper (1958)