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

Subjects Relationships, Pets, Nature, The Body

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 Thom  Gunn

Biography

An English poet who has been a long-time resident of California, Thom Gunn combines a respect for traditional poetic forms with an interest in popular topics, such as the Hell's Angels, LSD, and homosexuality. While Gunn wrote most of his early verses in iambic pentameter—a phase when his ambition was "to be the John Donne of the twentieth century"—his more recent works assume a variety of forms, including syllabic stanzas and . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Pets, Nature, The Body

Poetic Terms Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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