January by R. S. Thomas

The fox drags its wounded belly

Over the snow, the crimson seeds

Of blood burst with a mild explosion,

Soft as excrement, bold as roses.

 

Over the snow that feels no pity,

Whose white hands can give no healing,

The fox drags its wounded belly.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Song At The Year’s Turning (1955)

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Welsh Lanscape by R. S. Thomas

To live in Wales is to be conscious

At dusk of the spilled blood

That went to the making of the wild sky,

Dyeing the immaculate rivers

In all their courses.

It is to be aware,

Above the noisy tractor

And the hum of the machine

Of strife in the strung woods,

Vibrant with sped arrows.

You cannot live in the present,

At least not in Wales.

There is the language for instance,

The soft consonants

Strange to the ear.

There are cries in the dark at night

As owls answer the moon,

And thick ambush of shadows,

Hushed at the field’s corners.

There is no present in Wales,

And no future;

There is only the past,

Brittle with relics,

Wind-bitten towers and castles

With sham ghosts;

Mouldering quarries and mines;

And an impotent people,

Sick with inbreeding,

Worrying the carcase of an old song.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from An Acre of Land (1952)

The Hearth by R. S. Thomas

In front of the fire

With you, the folk song

Of the wind in the chimney and the sparks’

Embroidery of the soot – eternity

Is here in this small room

In intervals that our love

Widens; and outside

Us is time and the victims

Of time, travellers

To a new Bethlehem, statesmen

And scientists with their hands full

Of the gifts that destroy.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

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)

The River by R. S. Thomas

And the cobbled water

Of the stream with the trout’s indelible

Shadows that winter

Has not erased – I walk it

Again under a clean

Sky with the fish, speckled like thrushes,

Silently singing among the weed’s

Branches.

I bring the heart

Not the mind to the interpretation

Of their music, letting the stream

Comb me, feeling it fresh

In my veins, revisiting the sources

That are as near now

As on the morning I set out from them.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

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)