From the Wave

By Thom Gunn 1929–2004 Thom Gunn
It mounts at sea, a concave wall
     Down-ribbed with shine,
And pushes forward, building tall
     Its steep incline.

Then from their hiding rise to sight
     Black shapes on boards
Bearing before the fringe of white
     It mottles towards.

Their pale feet curl, they poise their weight
     With a learn’d skill.
It is the wave they imitate
     Keeps them so still.

The marbling bodies have become
     Half wave, half men,
Grafted it seems by feet of foam
     Some seconds, then,

Late as they can, they slice the face
     In timed procession:
Balance is triumph in this place,
     Triumph possession.

The mindless heave of which they rode
     A fluid shelf
Breaks as they leave it, falls and, slowed,
     Loses itself.

Clear, the sheathed bodies slick as seals
     Loosen and tingle;
And by the board the bare foot feels
     The suck of shingle.

They paddle in the shallows still;
     Two splash each other;
Then all swim out to wait until
     The right waves gather.

Thom Gunn, “From the Wave” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 2009 by Thom Gunn. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux .

Source: Selected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009)

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Poet Thom Gunn 1929–2004

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Sports & Outdoor Activities, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, The Body

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza