I wake up cold, I who
Prospered through dreams of heat   
Wake to their residue,   
Sweat, and a clinging sheet.   

My flesh was its own shield:   
Where it was gashed, it healed.

I grew as I explored   
The body I could trust   
Even while I adored
The risk that made robust,

A world of wonders in
Each challenge to the skin.

I cannot but be sorry
The given shield was cracked,
My mind reduced to hurry,   
My flesh reduced and wrecked.

I have to change the bed,   
But catch myself instead

Stopped upright where I am   
Hugging my body to me   
As if to shield it from   
The pains that will go through me,
As if hands were enough   
To hold an avalanche off.

  • Thom Gunn, “The Man with Night Sweats” 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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