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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

I always loved Dylan Thomas as a teen. I had a torn-out magazine clipping that I kept in my secret letter box for years with his poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’. There was a pic of him, I remember. A curly-haired close up of him lighting a smoke. I thought he was cool. I thought he was hot too. I wished he was still alive so I could talk to him on the (home) phone for hours about how to become a real poet. And about other things like how my great grandparents thought they were getting on a boat to America in the early 1900’s but really, they were headed for Africa – which basically ruined my chances of ever being classified as an American writer.

I imagined him coming to visit me in South Africa, and picking me up from school. He’d hoot. I’d run over. I imagined telling him about my boring days in class – except for that day in 10th Grade when Clare put a drawing pin on Mrs Beck’s chair – pin side up – and she sat on it. I’m laughing writing this; that was a funny day.

But Dylan, I knew, wasn’t a funny guy. He was intense – and melancholically sexy. Conversations with a brooding bard about childish school pranks would not be a strong point. I mean, this was a guy who basically told Death to f#$% right off. I loved his valiant words and his fierce position against ‘time’ and ‘dying’. I wanted to be him.

I think about his poem a lot these days in lockdown. “Do not go gentle, do not go gentle…” – the fire in the words, spinning like a hamster wheel over and over again in my mind. But they don’t make much sense to me anymore, like they used to. Because things are different now. Things have lost their meaning – meaning has lost its things. Life is not a ‘dying day’ is it? It’s a growing checklist of masks and musts. But what about the maybes?

Maybe we ought not to be fighting against the system, or the sickness of our lives; no longer blaming and shaming this pandemic for what it’s done to us.

Maybe we’ve raged long enough – for the wrong things. Like ‘our normal’ that is dying a merciless death in front of us. Maybe it’s okay not to fight anymore for the broken things that were, maybe, broken all along. Because it feels to me like the only light that’s dying right now, is the one we’re killing inside.

This is the time to float down the river, arms open wide and let the day ride itself out, untouched by our pressure paddles and sling shots and shame guns, all primed to win. Win what? The war against ourselves? Maybe.

Do not go gentle into that good night Old Age should rave and burn at the closing of the day Rage rage against the dying of the light

- Dylan Thomas

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