Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Meditation on Two Dead Poets by a Live One—How Black the Night

A couple of years ago I noticed that Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath shared a birthday, October 27—1914 in Wales for him, 1932 in Boston for her.  Except that they wrote poetry, although poetry very different in form, theme, style, and substance and died young each in a kind of pitiful squalor they had little in common.  Each had crossed the ocean and died in the orther’s country, a nice cosmic balance.

That year—2012—there common birthday also coincided with a New Moon and where I was, at least, a howling storm of darkness.  

You know me.  I am a sucker for cosmic coincidence.  So I scribbled down a poem for the occasion.

Writing poetry about poets, both infinitely more gifted than I, is an act of terminal hubris for which I shall be justly punished.  But here it is anyway.


How Black the Night
October 26, 2011—New Moon, Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath

Even the New Moon hides behind the howling clouds.

Happy Birthday Dylan—
Why did you not
            rage, rage against the dying of the light
            in that pool of your own black vomit
            at the Chelsea?

Happy Birthday Sylvia—
The same year, you dewy goddess,
            you emptied the medicine vials
            and crawled under your mother’s porch.

Not ships passing in the night,
                    but traversing the same black ocean
                    away from home
                    to something else.

Did you find what you were looking for
                    in worship and whiskey,
                    in broken love and madness?

As Dylan moldered under Laugharne,
                    Lady Lazarus, you wrote.
   Is an art, like everything else.
   I do it exceptionally well.

But laying your head in a oven
             is no art
             and posthumous poems
             no resurrection.

How black the night, dead poets.
                    how black the night?

—Patrick Murfin

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