Road Blog: Brady Street, Milwaukee, Wales


Early in our travel week, we drove from Chicago up to Milwaukee to meet our friends Robin and JIm, once of Berkeley, now of Ripon, Wisconsin (the town that’s the birthplace of the Republican Party, I can never refrain from saying).

Our plan was to meet at a Oaxacan restaurant called Cempazuchi, on Brady Street north of downtown. The neighborhood turns out to be happening, as doddering tourist types such as your current guide might put it. By which he means: it’s lined with restaurants, coffeehouses, clubs ‘n’ bars, and a couple of tattoo shops.

Above is one of those last, the Saints and Sinners Tattoo Company. The green hipster fixie machine caught my eye. And the legend “Sullen Art Collective” on the front door got my attention, too. Given the overall look, I read that and thought “art that is sullen.”

I pointed out the door to Kate, who said, “In my craft or sullen art. …” It was a familiar line, but I didn’t place it. She did: the title of a Dylan Thomas poem.

Later, she tracked down the text, and read it aloud, twice:

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art   
Exercised in the still night   
When only the moon rages   
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light   
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms   
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages   
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart   
From the raging moon I write   
On these spindrift pages   
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms   
But for the lovers, their arms   
Round the griefs of the ages,   
Who pay no praise or wages   
Nor heed my craft or art.

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