R. S. Thomas: Death of a Poet

Laid down on his smooth bed
For the last time, watching dully
Through heavy eyelids the day’s colour
Widow the sky, what can he say
Worthy of record, the books all open,
Pens ready, the faces, sad,
Waiting gravely for the tired lips
To move once—what can he say?

His tongue wrestles to force one word
Past the thick phlegm; no speech, no phrases
For the day’s news, just the one word ‘sorry’;
Sorry for the lies, for the long failure
In the poet’s war; that he preferred
The easier rhythms of the heart
To the mind’s scansion; that now he dies
Intestate, having nothing to leave
But a few songs, cold as stones
In the thin hands that asked for bread.


from R. S. Thomas: Collected Poems 1945-1990 (1993) (p. 84)

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