The Annihilation of Nothing

By Thom Gunn 1929–2004 Thom Gunn
Nothing remained: Nothing, the wanton name
That nightly I rehearsed till led away
To a dark sleep, or sleep that held one dream.

In this a huge contagious absence lay,
More space than space, over the cloud and slime,
Defined but by the encroachments of its sway.

Stripped to indifference at the turns of time,
Whose end I knew, I woke without desire,
And welcomed zero as a paradigm.

But now it breaks—images burst with fire
Into the quiet sphere where I have bided,
Showing the landscape holding yet entire:

The power that I envisaged, that presided
Ultimate in its abstract devastations,
Is merely change, the atoms it divided

Complete, in ignorance, new combinations.
Only an infinite finitude I see
In those peculiar lovely variations.

It is despair that nothing cannot be
Flares in the mind and leaves a smoky mark
Of dread.
               Look upward. Neither firm nor free,

Purposeless matter hovers in the dark.

Thom Gunn, “The Annihilation of Nothing” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 2009 by Thom Gunn. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux .

Source: Poetry (October 1958).

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This poem originally appeared in the October 1958 issue of Poetry magazine

October 1958
 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Arts & Sciences, Sciences

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