“Fern Hill,” by Dylan Thomas, has been a poem of comfort ever since I “discovered” it when I was 20. As I write this, I have my copy of Thomas’s Collected Poems in front of me, with a sticker from Svboda’s Books in State College (long gone, and sorely missed) still on the back. Inside, I signed and dated it on February 5, 1999, the day I bought it with part of a meager paycheck ($6 an hour!) from Mike’s Movies and Music, and less than a week before my 21st birthday.
It couldn’t be more fitting that I bought that book just before reaching the symbolic age of adulthood in the United States. “Fern Hill” is a profound and lyrical rumination on the innocence of childhood Eden, and how Time, even as it lets us play in the garden, is also unrelentingly ushering us toward the wider, wilder world beyond its gates.
Over and over as the years pass, 22 as I write this, I return to it. I have heard it read aloud at the wake of a dear friend Time has taken even further afield. I have read it silently on peaceful summer nights, and in times of difficult transition and crisis.
We keep the art we love always close to us because of what it does for us. When we want it – or need it – it embraces us with the comfort of connection, and the sharing of profound truths expressed with grace.
And here is my reading of “Fern Hill,” for better or worse:
Until the next time, stay safe and stay well.
PS…I’ve always appreciated David Lynch’s hair (not to mention David Lynch). And now, with all the barbershops closed, I’m starting to get some Lynch hair myself…I don’t think it’s been this long since I bought that Dylan Thomas book. Another month without a haircut, and I should be there. Well, let’s see what happens…