Thom Gunn

(29 August 1929 – 25 April 2004 / England)

Moly - Poem by 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.


Comments about Moly by Thom Gunn

  • (1/20/2017 8:21:00 PM)


    Up there as one of my favorite Gunn poems.

    Can't help but appreciate the image of a man-pig/pig-man squealing out iambs, searching for an antidote with which he's unfamiliar.
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  • (1/20/2017 8:14:00 PM)


    My favorite Gunn poem.

    Can't help but smile, thinking of a pig-man/man-pig squealing iambs.
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Poem Submitted: Friday, August 29, 2014



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