Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26: Better You Than Me

I remember the sting of a willow whip
on the backs of my legs,
later a thick, leather belt,
or a smack in the face.
I went to school with bruises,
carefully hidden under my sweater.
I forgave you for drinking long ago,
the day you leaped out of a moving car
because I wouldn’t stop at that tavern.
Researchers say we repeat the actions of our parents.
We speak, surprised
to hear our mothers’ voices in our mouths.
I choose not to. Tenacity,
this is the gift I learned at my mother’s knee.
I know down to my bones
we do not have to repeat what others have done.
My own daughter, her hands,
like my own,
only touch her daughter with love.

Today’s prompt from Octpowrimo (write a poem a day for October) asks us to
consider forgiveness, not an easy topic. In fact, when faced with danger, we fight or
we run away. Some say we can choose to “go with the flow.” Though being quiet,
unassuming, leery of argument, and somewhat shy, I generally choose to fight. My
husband says we forgive the foibles of those we love. I agree, most of the time.

But there is much in the world to fight against. I do not forgive the mean-fisted failures of
our governments, our soldiers, our social institutions. Even the smallest interactions
between parents and children can go wrong. No child should be hungry. No child
should be alone. No child should be born addicted to drugs. No child should wake to
bombs in the night. Personally and collectively, we do know better.

I love the line that Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote, “Rage, rage against the dying of
the light.” In fact, Thomas was a poet who died at age 39 from a heavy drinking bout.
But his words still resonate for me.  Here’s his poem, a villanelle, in its entirety to
celebrate October.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Source of Dylan Thomas' poem HERE.


  1. I like your poem very much. The idea that one can break cycles of hatred and harm is very much in play at present in the world I think. Also I like your take on the Dylan Thomas poem, one of my all time favorites. Thank you.

  2. Love both your poem and the villanelle. I have gotten so much better about expressing anger (it was a big no-no in the house where I have raised.) Constructive rage ROCKS! Destructive rage, SUCKS! And forgiveness, even while raging is an artform.

    So grateful you wrote to this prompt. Your poetry is so compelling.... so glad you participated here at OctPoWriMo.

  3. Wow, your poem is so powerful! I wish I could write such moving poetry.

    I tagged you in my blog post Next Big Thing.