It’s an awful day over here; we’ve had rain pounding against the windows and winds rattling the trees – it brought me back to this poem.
Thomas describes the fall of a marriage in three stanzas. It’s powerful, it’s chilling and it’s impressive. The tone delivered from the opening stanza immediately puts a dark cloud above your head and it reads ‘This won’t be pretty.’
Thomas says a lot about marriage and a lot about love; while you may have all the pieces to make it work, to live together, to grow old, things happen in life that puts it to a solid halt. There are wounds that never heal, especially when death isn’t caused by nature.
This has been my go-to poem for when a sombre mood strikes. The lingering rhyme scheme is unforgettable and the last stanza in particular is haunting and has stuck with me for a very long time.
— — —
The sky is torn across
This ragged anniversary of two
Who moved for three years in tune
Down the long walks of their vows.
Now their love lies a loss
And Love and his patients roar on a chain;
From every tune or crater
Carrying cloud, Death strikes their house.
Too late in the wrong rain
They come together whom their love parted:
The windows pour into their heart
And the doors burn in their brain.
Right now, I’m sure you can pinpoint a moment in your childhood or teenage years you sincerely regret. That moment often follows us and while we forgive ourselves and label it as learning (the hard way), if we could turn back time, we probably wouldn’t have decided to read our love poem out to the entire class at the age of thirteen… perhaps that’s just me.
Armitage has condensed all of this into three small stanzas of memory. There’s a very natural rhythm to this, dotted with internal rhymes that give the poem a bounce like a brainwave jolt in remembering events. While the content isn’t exactly pretty, the vivid imagery allows us to fully experience this memory as if it were our own.
It’s a quirky love poem that epitomises the awkwardness of growing up as a teenage boy and how feelings are expressed and acted upon – anyone of that category will find some relation in this ode to clumsiness, we’ve all been there. Arguably, there’s an unsettling level of ambiguity we’re left with, but nonetheless a brilliant piece that will stick with you.
— — —
I am very bothered when I think
of the bad things I have done in my life.
Not least that time in the chemistry lab
when I held a pair of scissors by the blades
and played the handles
in the naked lilac flame of the Bunsen burner;
then called your name, and handed them over.O the unrivalled stench of branded skin
as you slipped your thumb and middle finger in,
then couldn’t shake off the two burning rings. Marked,
the doctor said, for eternity.
Don’t believe me, please, if I say
that was just my butterfingered way, at thirteen,
of asking you if you would marry me.