A few 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. They had little in common 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. Each had crossed the ocean and died in the other’s country, a nice cosmic balance.
That year—2012—their common birthday also coincided with a new moon and where I was, at least, a howling storm of darkness.
Sylvia Plath in a similar venue battling her invisible demons.
You know me. I am a sucker for cosmic coincidence. So, I scribbled 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 an oven
is no art
and posthumous poems
How black the night, dead poets,
how black the night?