Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
– Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”
All scattered round the whitened lake froze solid,
The morning cracking open in sheets,
Time knew our contract
And would not shrink or swell,
And I was long humbled among the curb and pavement crowds
And a servant of the curves and turns which rapid
Hide the purpose of the streets
Behind the woody columns of the dell,
And as I was minister of pine straw and gold
In the cabin-wood and mute as the earth was firm
In the sun that lights the ice,
Time kept the dying beat
With mighty hand to the drum,
And I was sexton of dust and leaf and fragment;
Lullaby and eulogy brought down the birds of God
To hear the sabbath turning
In its sleep within my lungs.
All the ocean-night had the ancient hosts
Of spheres enwrapped a wandering world, and wet
And sailing in severe curves
I had raced maps
To lie to all things.
Long as sun-sky and soon as shorelines,
Swept, those spirits, the ground beneath my knees
And stilled the earth
In a coda of wings.
Then to awake and know the morning, pledged and kept
And far like an unfamiliar inheritance. I was Adam
And, charged to give truth
To each creature,
Would name all names
And ask forgiveness of every thing that lifts its gift
Before it in procession, stepping silent in white robes
To the even pulse
That pulls each one the same.
And standing priest before the sylvan congregation
I chanted the rite that guides this dying march,
With Time, who marks the steps
Until his cadence ends
And he counts no more.
And nothing do I not mourn of nights that I had fled
The rigid rhythms of Time by running to his tempo,
Impuissant to make an escape,
When by fear he was my lord.
Nothing do I not mourn of when I did not heed his beat
Those days I thought he was my master, Time
Who cannot bind me to what I embrace
Who cannot master any
Whom he does not bind.
Yes, perhaps now I sing in my chains like the sea,
But they will burst asunder in the morning chorus,
And then I will sing
Like the very earth itself.