Down to the Green Darkness

by’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.


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