Advertisement

For a Birthday, by THOM GUNN

I have reached a time when words no longer

help:

Instead of guiding me across the moors

Strong landmarks in the uncertain out-of-doors,

Advertisement

Or like dependable friars on the Alp

Saving with wisdom and with brandy kegs,

They are gravel-stones, or tiny dogs which yelp

Biting my trousers, running round my legs.

Advertisement

Description and analysis degrade,

Limit, delay, slipped land from what has been;

And when we groan My Darling what we mean

Looked at more closely would too soon evade

Advertisement

The intellectual habit of our eyes;

And either the experience would fade

Or our approximations would be lies.

The snarling dogs are weight upon my haste,

Advertisement

Tons which I am detaching ounce by ounce.

All my agnostic irony I renounce

So I may climb to regions where I rest

In springs of speech, the dark before of truth:

Advertisement

The sweet moist wafer of your tongue I taste,

And find right meanings in your silent mouth.

From “Collected Poems” by Thom Gunn. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $35.) 1994 Reprinted by permission.


Advertisement