Monday, October 19, 2009

Dylan Thomas in Italy

The heat! Old Elbanites on their flayed and blistered backs whimper about the heat. Sunblack webfooted waterboys, diving from cranes, bleed from the heat. Old scorched mineral-miners, fifty years in the fire, snarl at the heat as they drag the rusty trolleys naked over the skeleton piers. And as for us! The children all sun-and-sea-rashed, Brigit peeling like the papered wall of a blitzed room in the rain. And I can hardly hold this pen for the blisters all over my hands, can hardly see for the waterfalls of sweat, and am peeling too like a drenched billboard. Oh, oh, oh, the heat! It comes round corners at you like an animal with windmill arms. As I enter my bedroom, it stuns, thuds, throttles, spins me round by my soaking hair, lays me flat as a mat and bat-blind on my boiled and steaming bed. We keep oozing from the ice-cream counters to the chemist's. Cold beer is bottled God. If ever, for a second, a wind, (but wind's no word for this snailslow sizzle-puff), protoplasmically crawls from the suffering still sea, it makes a noise like H.D.'s poems crackling in a furnace. I must stop writing to souse my head in a bedroom basin full of curded lava, return fresh as Freddie Hurdis-Jones in Sodom, frizzle and mew as I sit again on this Sing-Sing-hot-seat. What was I saying? Nothing is clear. My brains are hanging out like the intestines of a rabbit, or hanging down my back like hair. My tongue, for all the ice-cold God I drink, is hot as a camel-saddle sandily mounted by baked Bedouins. My eyes like over-ripe tomatoes strain at the sweating glass of a Saharan hothouse. I am hot. I am too hot. I wear nothing, in this tiny hotel-room, but the limp two rivers of my Robins'-made pyjama trousers. Oh for the cyclonic Siberian frigidity of a Turkish bath! In the pulverescence of the year came Christ the Niger. Christ, I'm hot!

Dylan Thomas, The Collected Letters (Macmillan, 1985), pp. 656-7