Where the breath condenses.

INSIDE

I am my own
geology, strata on strata
of the imagination, tufa
dreams, the limestone mind
honeycombed by the running away
of too much thought. Examine
me, tap with your words’
hammer, awaken memories
of fire. It is so long
since I cooled. Inside me,
stalactite and stalagmite,
ideas have formed and become
rigid. To the crowd
I am all outside.
To the pot-holing few there is a way
in along passages that become
narrower and narrower,
that lead to the chamber
too low to stand up in,
where the breath condenses
to the cold and locationless
cloud we call truth. It
is where I think.

-R.S. Thomas

I began to read a biography of R.S. Thomas a while back. Its tone was unsympathetic, and as with many biographies of writers, it didn’t facilitate my relationship with the poet. With Thomas, if you want to be any kind of friend, you have to accept his particular “geology,” which is full of rocks and stones and cold clouds, all waiting for that day when the sun will shine fully on the landscape, burn off the fog, and never set again. I am content to wait with him, and not to try to “figure him out” in this life.

Where I grew up our winters frequently featured cold fog. Foggy days such as I actually enjoy on the beach nearest me, when the thermometer stays above 50, are way different from the 27-degree tule fog of my youth, which can hang on and chill the spirit all day.

Thomas seems to be saying that those few people who stumble into his inside, where he thinks, will not find a comfortable  place to rest. It’s a place without location, somehow. Whatever can be felt with the senses, it’s cold and cramped. There is little solace in abstract truth.

Even the request, “Examine me… tap… awaken memories of fire” refers to something of the mind: memories. But if this is a prayer, the real God who is not a memory or an idea, but is the only one who has Being in Himself, might come and be present in the present. Not just to revive memories of past events, but to create actual warmth and spaciousness in the soul. He has been called a consuming fire, and the Sun of Righteousness. He is definitely what the wintry and frozen soul needs.

“But for you who revere my name,
the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.
And you will go out and leap like calves
released from the stall.”

Malachi 4:2

5 thoughts on “Where the breath condenses.

  1. I don’t know your R.S. Thomas but my years of living with a speelunker made his words vivid in my mind. And oh my, how I love Malachi’s leaping like a calf released from the stall, a line I don’t remember but am jotting down because it gives me such joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Much to digest here today. I am only as far as trying to imagine those days you grew up with of cold fog. The closest I can think of for me is what I call damp cold that sometimes comes with fog. I truly appreciated your last paragraph, and the verse recorded from Malachi.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Is it possible to ever know the true inside of another person? When we even have difficulties to know our own insides?

    The fog is so familiar here, even though at the moment we have very chilly days with frosty mornings, but no fog. The days are sunny, but I hope we will get more rain – so far, December was a good rainy month.

    Liked by 1 person

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