I dreamed my genesis in sweat of sleep, breaking
Through the rotating shell, strong
As motor muscle on the drill, driving
Through vision and the girdered nerve.
From limbs that had the measure of the worm, shuffled
Off from the creasing flesh, filed
Through all the irons in the grass, metal
Of suns in the man-melting night.
Heir to the scalding veins that hold love’s drop, costly
A creature in my bones I
Rounded my globe of heritage, journey
In bottom gear through night-geared man.
I dreamed my genesis and died again, shrapnel
Rammed in the marching heart, hole
In the stitched wound and clotted wind, muzzled
Death on the mouth that ate the gas.
Sharp in my second death I marked the hills, harvest
Of hemlock and the blades, rust
My blood upon the tempered dead, forcing
My second struggling from the grass.
And power was contagious in my birth, second
Rise of the skeleton and
Rerobing of the naked ghost. Manhood
Spat up from the resuffered pain.
I dreamed my genesis in sweat of death, fallen
Twice in the feeding sea, grown
Stale of Adam’s brine until, vision
Of new man strength, I seek the sun.
The most consistent thread in Dylan Thomas’ work is a yearning to return or be transported to a place of youth and innocence. Thomas politicizes the world because he is never content nor accepting of the standards and norms that most adults adhere to, quite frankly his poems are a mockery of the real world. Thomas prefers the ideal. “I Dream My Genesis” is Thomas grappling with re-envisioning his beginning in the thick of a restless night. Thomas’ life story is consistently retold as one of carelessness, drunkenness and irresponsibility despite his incredible gifting and talent. Many critics seem to believe his poems exhibit a sort of drunken stupor, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. I find myself in both beliefs that some of his poems have depth and some seem to me a bit rushed.
However, hearing Thomas recite his poems, I am pressed to believe maybe the poems I do not understand have a depth I cannot quite grasp, at least not until I understand the poet more intimately. Taking into account Thomas’ history; his inability to hold a job, to stay sober, there is something the poet is running from or processing through. And though poetry is a great escape for many, maybe it was not enough of an escape for Thomas. I also ask myself, “where does he want to escape to?” The answer I believe is, to his childhood, or at least a place of purity, of innocence. This drive is what creates such a force in Thomas’ words and makes his poetry so bombastic, yearning, ethereal and youthful. His poems can be personified as a child skipping through nature, chomping at the bit to see over a new horizon. It is as if the poem could fly him away and the more forceful the language the higher he is projected. This is also clearly seen in his poem, “Poem in October”, where Thomas reflects on his childhood, stating, “his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.” The child’s heart was Thomas’s own heart, even as a man, this heart was inescapable and fantastically fascinated with repainting the world and marveling at nature.
This fascination with repainting the world and returning to innocence is what “I Dreamed My Genesis” is all about. This is what we see in lines 1 and 2 of the first stanza, it is this “breaking through the rotating shell”, the shell is his body similar to the shell of a bullet. Thomas in this dream-like state is similar to a bullet in the chamber, he is yearning to be propelled, ‘rotating’ as the bullet spins, so he spins in his sleep, and metaphorically piercing into the reality of his dream. This dream we speak of where he re-imagines his beginning, where he questions what life would be like if he had not lost his innocence. This dream where he repeatedly envisions what life would be like if he could choose the circumstance that shaped him. But he couldn’t. Continue reading