Thirteen Blackbirds Look at a Man

By R. S. Thomas 1913–2000
1

It is calm.
It is as though
we lived in a garden
that had not yet arrived
at the knowledge of
good and evil.
But there is a man in it.


2

There will be
rain falling vertically
from an indifferent
sky. There will stare out
from behind its
bars the face of the man
who is not enjoying it.


3

Nothing higher
than a blackberry
bush. As the sun comes up
fresh, what is the darkness
stretching from horizon
to horizon? It is the shadow
here of the forked man.


4

We have eaten
the blackberries and spat out
the seeds, but they lie
glittering like the eyes of a man.


5

After we have stopped
singing, the garden is disturbed
by echoes; it is
the man whistling, expecting
everything to come to him.


6

We wipe our beaks
on the branches
wasting the dawn’s
jewellery to get rid
of the taste of a man.


7

Neverthless,
which is not the case
with a man, our
bills give us no trouble.


8

Who said the
number was unlucky?
It was a man, who,
trying to pass us,
had his licence endorsed
thirteen times.


9

In the cool
of the day the garden
seems given over
to blackbirds. Yet
we know also that somewhere
there is a man in hiding.


10

To us there are
eggs and there are
blackbirds. But there is the man,
too, trying without feathers
to incubate a solution.


11

We spread our
wings, reticulating
our air-space. A man stands
under us and worries
at his ability to do the same.


12

When night comes
like a visitor
from outer space
we stop our ears
lest we should hear tell
of the man in the moon.


13

Summer is
at an end. The migrants
depart. When they return
in spring to the garden,
will there be a man among them?

R. S. Thomas, “Thirteen Blackbirds Look at a Man” 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 (University of Arizona Press, 1985)

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Poet R. S. Thomas 1913–2000

POET’S REGION Wales

Subjects Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

 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 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION Wales

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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