I’m in Ireland at the moment, finishing a novel, staying with a great friend who lives on the north coast. Yesterday evening we went surfing – one of those things I enjoy but do not well – and when I got back I’d had another email from a regal friend containing an article from Anne Lamott. She’s a great writer, and in a piece about Easter had written “Life happens, death happens, and then new life happens”; a beautiful summary of Christianity.
But it was this poem by RS Thomas that really moved me. I’ve been playing with a poem about the ocean since a few lines came to me while out in the surf in Polzeath, Cornwall, over the summer. And, as I think I’ve written here before, there’s a section in the book I’m writing where the protagonist looks out at the sea and muses that humanity is really no more than an irritant on the surface of the earth, and that, having climbed out of the oceans millennia ago, the oceans are simply going to rise and take us back.
But Thomas puts things so much better:
I have this that I must do
one day; overdraw on my balance
of air, and breaking the surface
of water go down into the green
darkness to search for the door
to myself in dumbness and blindness
and uproar of scared blood
at the eardrums. There are no signposts
there but bones of the dead
conger, no light but the pale
phosphorus, where the slow corpses
swag. I must go down with poor
purse of my body and buy courage,
paying for it with the coins of my breath.