Hurtless

“A process in the weather of the heart
Turns damp to dry”

~ Dylan Thomas ~


It was one of our late September holidays
swapping city for an English seaside town.
At season’s end yet still aglow, and busy with boats
gulls, and promenaders lured to the far decked horizons.
October brought us home. The bump to earth
softened by a pile of beachcombed memories,
some from boyhood and the war.

Perhaps that’s why neither of us took note.
The red flags subtly semaphoring your decline
went unread. And the MayDay call – unheard.
A happening so absolute. The beat of your heart
had ceased as mine sank – and all that we ever knew
of each other, petrified.
Yet because everything is movement, I’m automaton.
A solitary somnambulist, a dry ghost that cries in silence
talking aloud and alone if only to banish the unanswerable truth
of your eternal absence.

It’s been barely noticeable the changes since. The way this second
happening has turned out, bearing all the corny cliches of Spring.
For fear of feeling faithless I’ve clung to these few anniversaries
with a heavy hallowed hand. Now candles are lit like birthdays
and fresh flowers no longer smell decayed.

Two of us were buried with your death
but the earth turns again with the worm

Several reads of the Dylan Thomas poem "A process in the weather of the heart" brought this one into being for Peter's prompt: Middles and Turns 

48 Comments on “Hurtless

  1. This is so excellent and heartbreakingly sad, I can really feel it in my gut with not knowing (yet) the meaning of those red flags. Still, the journey of season’s change has its own way of pulling you back on the tracks, in the way you say it in that excellent final couplet.

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    • I chose red flags as warning signs and since discovered that GPs actually call them such as ‘alert signs and symptoms that indicate a more serious underlying pathology.’

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  2. Moving forward does not mean turning our backs on the past. This has both a subtle decline and a subtle turn, one that allows for the past while moving on.

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  3. This is so sad, and so beautifully written. One to read again to catch everything, and I’ll have to go read Thomas, too.

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  4. OMG I’m not sure I’d feel a turn. It’d be downhill and downhill even further. But you have mastered and amplified the subtle, Laura. Awesome creation.

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  5. This is heartwrenchingly beautiful, Laura! I held my heart at; “a dry ghost that cries in silence talking aloud and alone if only to banish the unanswerable truth of your eternal absence.” The poem is raw, poignant and hard-hitting in its portrayal of death. There are undertones of Dylan here that I admire, and I must say I prefer yours to the original. 💝💝

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    • very kind Sanaa but cannot compare – I would give a lot to write like the Welsh bard though – less simple and so full of the unexpected imagery

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  6. The turn is ghostly, automatic in frozen memory — there’s that automaton — hindsight sees too late the inevitable. Well done. – Brendan

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  7. Achingly beautiful, Laura:
    “A solitary somnambulist, a dry ghost that cries in silence
    talking aloud and alone if only to banish the unanswerable truth
    of your eternal absence.”
    My heart goes out to you.

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  8. (another) Lovely piece Laura. So many evocative images – ‘promenaders lured to the far decked horizons’ among the gems. I particularly liked how the gaiety of the first stanza, echoes in the second with ‘Subtly semaphored…’ Also in the third ‘the heavy hallowed hand’ – all the echoes in ‘hallowed’: hollowed, and also holy or dedicated – speaks powerfully of the weight and the duties of this loss. And the turn in the final couplet – life and death reaching some kind of detente – not joyful but accepting perhaps.

    (I don’t know if you’ve read Australian poet Fay Zwicky – but your style reminds me a lot of her writings – dense, layered and realistic and uncompromising – worth a read if you’ve not already – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fay_Zwicky).

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    • thank you for this prompt Peter which I strugled to find a place of beginning until I stumbled across the DT piece – it was a good lesson in middle turns and one I must pay more attention to in future.
      your summation of “some kind of detente” perfectly encapsulates grief after time
      p.s. thank you for the link and I will certainly read more of Zwicky – always good to find fresh readings especially if there is some echo of my writings there – I can learn from her.

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      • Yes – I still find her writing a bit intimidating – she used to lecture English when I was an Arts undergraduate – and she was fierce and brilliant and wonderful.

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  9. I can’t add anything to the previous comments. Except to say this brought tears to my eyes, and that happens rarely. Your love, and loss, shine through.
    Jude xx

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    • Dear Jude – if you were so moved then I take heart that the poem ‘worked’ – it is hard to write of grief without sounding maudlin or objective so your response was reassuring. (I think Martin would like it too – he always encouraged my poetry writing)

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  10. “The beat of your heart
    that ceased as mine sank – and all that we ever knew
    of each other, turned to stone.”

    So very heart wrenching Laura. A brilliant expression of grief. I am deeply sad after this, and feeling great sympathy for you in that horrible moment — and in the time since. {{{{HUG}}}}

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  11. Your title is like a livid bruise that looks quite beautiful but is so painful, Laura, and I had to go back to the Dylan Thomas poem before I continued to read yours – a perfect quotation with its own turn to inspire yours. You took me back to late September days on English beaches; I could smell the sea air in the opening lines, in the boats, gulls, promenaders and ‘far decked horizons’, and I felt the turn: the October ‘bump to earth’ and‘the red flags. Subtly semaphored’, and the tears welled when I read the lines:
    ‘Yet because everything is movement, I’m automaton.
    A solitary somnambulist, a dry ghost that cries in silence
    talking aloud and alone if only to banish the unanswerable truth
    of your eternal absence.’

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    • ah yes those lovely seaside Septembers – I was so thankful that we ended on that note. An interesting and wonderfully described view of the title – and isn’t the DT piece remarkable – it was new to me till now.

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  12. Laura, my Papa died in summer 2018, and this poem makes me think of my Mama … I will share your poem with her.

    Also, the “worm” at the end made me shudder.

    Shabbat shalom,
    David

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    • David, I have been aware of your loss too hence the ‘sceptic’s kaddish’ and I hope your Mama finds/has found some way of living onward from her loss.
      p.s. Shabbat shalom to you too. I still light the shabbos candles as ours was a J-C union

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      • I shared it with my Mama, she she wrote back:

        Thanks. It’s a very touching poem indeed. Moreover, some lines are utterly reflective of my feelings and reality.

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  13. This poem really hit home. How loss leaves us is summed up perfectly in these lines:

    ‘Yet because everything is movement, I’m automaton.
    A solitary somnambulist, a dry ghost that cries in silence’

    And those final lines are just heartbreaking. I love your use of language here at every turn of the poem. I’m pleased you still find time for ‘all the corny cliches of Spring’ and hope that these provide some level of comfort.

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    • thank you Ingrid – yes the hardest part initially is the way the world carries on and our own worlds have stopped. I have found some solace in writing and still do

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      • I remember that feeling as almost like ‘how dare they?’ Writing is great therapy and even though it took me along time to arrive at it, I’m pleased I did.

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  14. I really love your turn in this one… No one read the signs… that is often the way it is it seems. Then the turn’s finality…The beat of your heart
    had ceased as mine sank – and all that we ever knew
    of each other, petrified.
    Wow! that says it all!
    Well done Laura! So sorry for you loss!
    Dwight

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