If you’ve known me for very long, then you probably know that I have a very… let’s call it “complicated” relationship with organized religion. What you may not know about me is that, in spite of it, I do still love the Bible. At least, I love parts of it, as mythology, and as literature. For example, I think Song of Solomon has some of the most beautiful passages of any love poem ever written. I mean, how great is this: “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” Wouldn’t you swear that was Sappho?
I also love the first chapter of Genesis. That line about the holy spirit moving upon the waters always gave me chills. So of course the first time I heard “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson I was totally blown away. Such a powerful retelling, with such rich imagery… but that’s a post for another day.
I recently discovered that one of my favorite poets, Dylan Thomas, also re-imagined the creation story with his poem “In the Beginning.” And just as you would expect from the brilliant Mr. Thomas, it is amazing. Here’s how it starts:
In the beginning was the three-pointed star,
One smile of light across the empty face;
One bough of bone across the rooting air,
The substance forked that marrowed the first sun;
And, burning ciphers on the round of space,
Heaven and hell mixed as they spun.
Please, oh please, click here to read the rest.
Every time I read Dylan Thomas, I find myself repeating this question over and over: “How the hell did he DO that?” I just don’t know how he came up with phrases like “bough of bone” and “substance forked that marrowed the first sun.” I mean, it’s perfect. It conjures with utter precision the harrowing violence inherent in the act of creating a universe. A Big Bang of words.
It seems like a fitting poem to share, in the aftermath of all the spring holidays: Easter, Passover, Vernal Equinox… um, Zombie Day. They’re all celebrations that reflect on the cycle of life, and new beginnings.
This week Lisa Chellman’s got your back, rounding up all the Poetry Friday posts at her blog Under the Covers.