Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas.

He was the first “adult” poet* whose work I fell in love with — though the relationship started when I was a kid. We would go to Aunt Sal´s house and flop belly-down on the floor to scribble-illustrate “A Child´s Christmas in Wales” as Uncle Perry read it aloud in his sonorous voice, doing all the characters. Miss Prothero was my favorite. ¨Would you like anything to read?”

Later, in high school, I found my way to his other work. My junior year English lit teacher asked if anyone had read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and I replied that I hadn´t, but had read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. She jumped down off her desk, crowing with delight, and came to plant a big kiss on my cheek. (This was in the Dark Ages, when teachers could do such things.)

*I had discovered e.e. cummings when I was quite young, but only the safe stuff. The really good, raunchy stuff didn´t come over my transom until I was at university.

And this is his poem that I loved most, and will love always.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
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