Moly

By Thom Gunn 1929–2004 Thom Gunn
Nightmare of beasthood, snorting, how to wake.
I woke. What beasthood skin she made me take?

Leathery toad that ruts for days on end,
Or cringing dribbling dog, man’s servile friend,

Or cat that prettily pounces on its meat,
Tortures it hours, then does not care to eat:

Parrot, moth, shark, wolf, crocodile, ass, flea.
What germs, what jostling mobs there were in me.

    These seem like bristles, and the hide is tough.
No claw or web here: each foot ends in hoof.

Into what bulk has method disappeared?
Like ham, streaked. I am gross—grey, gross, flap-eared.

The pale-lashed eyes my only human feature.
My teeth tear, tear. I am the snouted creature

That bites through anything, root, wire, or can.
If I was not afraid I’d eat a man.

Oh a man’s flesh already is in mine.
Hand and foot poised for risk. Buried in swine.

    I root and root, you think that it is greed,
It is, but I seek out a plant I need.

Direct me gods, whose changes are all holy,
To where it flickers deep in grass, the moly:

Cool flesh of magic in each leaf and shoot,
From milky flower to the black forked root.

From this fat dungeon I could rise to skin
And human title, putting pig within.

I push my big grey wet snout through the green,
Dreaming the flower I have never seen.

Thom Gunn, “Moly” 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 Relationships, Pets, Nature, The Body

Poetic Terms Couplet

 Thom  Gunn

Biography

Thom Gunn was born in Kent, England to parents who were both journalists. Gunn’s early life was peripatetic; after his parents’ divorce, he traveled with his father to various assignments and attended a number of different schools. His mother committed suicide when Gunn was fifteen. In an interview with the Paris Review Gunn spoke about the effect of his mother’s death: “I was devastated for about four years. I very much retired . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Pets, Nature, The Body

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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