Poste Restante

By R. S. Thomas 1913–2000
I want you to know how it was,
whether the Cross grinds into dust
under men’s wheels or shines brightly
as a monument to a new era.

There was a church and one man
served it, and few worshipped
there in the raw light on the hill
in winter, moving among the stones
fallen about them like the ruins
of a culture they were too weak
to replace, too poor themselves
to do anything but wait
for the ending of a life
they had not asked for.
                                     The priest would come
and pull on the hoarse bell nobody
heard, and enter that place
of darkness, sour with the mould
of the years. And the spider would run
from the chalice, and the wine lie
there for a time, cold and unwanted
by all but he, while the candles
guttered as the wind picked
at the roof. And he would see
over that bare meal his face
staring at him from the cracked glass
of the window, with the lips moving
like those of an inhabitant of
a world beyond this.
                                 And so back
to the damp vestry to the book
where he would scratch his name and the date
he could hardly remember, Sunday
by Sunday, while the place sank
to its knees and the earth turned
from season to season like the wheel
of a great foundry to produce
you, friend, who will know what happened.

R. S. Thomas, “Poste Restante” from The Poems of R. S. Thomas. Copyright © by Kunjana Thomas 2001.  Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: The Poems of R. S. Thomas (1985)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet R. S. Thomas 1913–2000

POET’S REGION Wales

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Religion, Christianity, Social Commentaries

 R. S. Thomas

Biography

Recognized as one of the leading poets of modern Wales, R. S. Thomas writes about the people of his country in a style that some critics have compared to that nation's harsh and rugged terrain. Using few of the common poetic devices, Thomas's work exhibits what Alan Brownjohn of the New Statesman calls a "cold, telling purity of language." James F. Knapp of Twentieth Century Literature explains that "the poetic world which . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Religion, Christianity, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION Wales

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.