Belated Response to R.S. Thomas

Imaginative truth is the most immediate way of presenting ultimate reality to a human being... ultimate reality is what we call God. - R.S. Thomas

i

Well, it’s true enough
as far as it goes

but exceptions always prove
the unforgiving rule

In the sparse, cold
hinterland of doubt

the sliding faith’s
reluctant groove

erodes the sands
of languages

and makes a space
where you and I can go

spanned across the bay
as Norse or Celt alike


ii

thus I am happy
to walk this path

you also trod
to wring out verse

where Saxon oars go
four beats to a line

a coracle on a river
reaching southward like an arm

infiltrating and dividing,
while at the empty junction,

lines slip away into
the middle distance

and strangers talk all night
to get no closer


iii

Still, you must do something,
I suppose

so paint as black as night
the stalls at Derwenlas

to raise uncomprehending
bruitish eyes to heaven

And any one of us can raise
a golden-headed son

oblique to our chosen tongue
in a thinly papered manse

and scatter pearls before
our swinish kin

and that is what the church
might call a living

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