The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman's lime.
The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.
And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971, 2003 New Directions Publishing Corp. Used with permission.
It was all so different than he expected.
For years he’d been agnostic; now he meditated.
For years he’d dreamed of being an artist living abroad;
now he reread Baudelaire, Emerson, Bishop.
He’d never considered marriage . . .
Still, a force through green did fuse.
Yes, he wore his pants looser.
No, he didn’t do crosswords in bed.
No, he didn’t file for Social Security.
Yes, he danced alone in the bathroom mirror,
since younger men expected generosity.
Long ago, his thesis had been described as promising,
“with psychological heat and the consuming
will of nature.” Now he thought, “This then is all.”
On the rooftop, in pale flickering moonlight,
he pondered the annihilated earth.
At the pond, half-a-mile across was not
too far to swim because he seemed to be
going toward something. Yes, the love impulse
had frequently revealed itself in terms of conflict;
but this was an old sound, an austere element.
Yes, he’d been no angel and so what . . .
Yes, tiny moths emerged from the hall closet.
Yes, the odor of kombucha made him sick.
Yes, he lay for hours pondering the treetops,
the matriarchal clouds, the moon.
Though his spleen collected melancholy trophies,
his imagination was not impeded.
Copyright © 2022 by Henri Cole. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 5, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
This thin edge of December
Wears out meagrely in the
Cold muds, rains, intolerable nauseas of the street.
Closed doors, where are your keys?
Closed hearts, does your embitteredness endure forever?
Afternoon settles on the town,
each hour long as a street—
In the rooms
A sombre carpet broods, stagnates beneath deliberate steps:
Here drag a foot, there a foot, drop sighs, look round for nothing, shiver.
Sunday creeps in silence
Under suspended smoke,
And curdles defiant in unreal sleep.
The gas-fire puffs, consumes, ticks out its minor chords—
And at the door
I guess the arrested knuckles of the one-time friend,
One foot on the stair delaying, that turns again.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.