Poison or Grapes?

Ears in the Turrets Hear

Ears in the turrets hear
Hands grumble on the door,
Eyes in the gables see
The fingers at the locks.
Shall I unbolt or stay
Alone till the day I die
Unseen by stranger-eyes
In this white house?
Hands, hold you poison or grapes?

Beyond this island bound
By a thin sea of flesh
And a bone coast,
The land lies out of sound
And the hills out of mind.
No birds or flying fish
Disturbs this island’s rest.

Ears in this island hear
The wind pass like a fire,
Eyes in this island see
Ships anchor off the bay.
Shall I run to the ships
With the wind in my hair,
Or stay till the day I die
And welcome no sailor?
Ships, hold you poison or grapes?

Hands grumble on the door,
Ships anchor off the bay,
Rain beats the sand and slates.
Shall I let in the stranger,
Shall I welcome the sailor,
Or stay till the day I die?

Hands of the stranger and holds of the ships,
Hold you poison or grapes?

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

For so many years I thought I couldn’t read poetry, that I’d never ‘get’ it, never hear anything in it.  Dylan Thomas was one of the first poets I read whose work hit me beyond the words and made me see that ‘getting’ poetry wasn’t some secret trick no one had taught me.  This one has so many lines I love, so many images that resonate for me.  And the question I’ve had to answer over and over again throughout my life: “Shall I unbolt or stay / Alone till the day I die?”

3 thoughts on “Poison or Grapes?

  1. Beautiful Poem—thanks for sharing it.
    I think that is why I don’t read more poetry, a fear of understanding. I hope to get over that fear and take at look at some of these poets work you have shared!


  2. Maggie, dammit

    I don’t read much poetry either, as I’ve said — but this is just one more example of how incredible it can be. Was it Hawthorne I think who said, “easy reading is damn hard writing.”


    And – I assume the question is a rhetorical one? If not, I answer unbolt.


  3. Ashley — it took me a while to get past my I-can’t-do-poetry thing. I actually think teaching (in particular when I had the pleasure of teaching with a wonderful poet) is what finally got me through.

    Maggie — I like that quote. The question is usually rhetorical … it’s interesting to me how often it comes up … same with the ‘poison or grapes’ question.


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