When the morning was waking over the war He put on his clothes and stepped out and he died, The locks yawned loose and a blast blew them wide, He dropped where he loved on the burst pavement stone And the funeral grains of the slaughtered floor. Tell his street on its back he stopped a sun And the craters of his eyes grew springshoots and fire When all the keys shot from the locks, and rang. Dig no more for the chains of his grey-haired heart. The heavenly ambulance drawn by a wound Assembling waits for the spade’s ring on the cage. O keep his bones away from the common cart, The morning is flying on the wings of his age And a hundred storks perch on the sun’s right hand.
By Dylan Thomas (July 1941)
Additional information: I have seen online a number of sources have ‘springshots’ instead of ‘springshoots’. The book I reference, and the above clip where you can hear the poet himself reciting the poem, confirms it is ‘springshoot’ . I can only imagine those sources copied each other or there is some alternate ‘American English’ version I am unfamiliar with.
Characteristically, the sonnet refuses to let the natural triumph of the centenarian’s death be obscured by piety, officialese or propaganda. Instead, it records the events with a quiet irony – that such an old man should need to be killed by a bomb. The flat title was an actual headline in a newspaper. With an even crueller irony. Thomas considered, as a title for the second part of ‘Ceremony After a Fire Raid’ known as ‘Among Those Burned to Death was a Child Aged a Few Hours’.