One by one they appear in
the darkness: a few friends, and   
a few with historical
names. How late they start to shine!   
but before they fade they stand   
perfectly embodied, all

the past lapping them like a   
cloak of chaos. They were men   
who, I thought, lived only to   
renew the wasteful force they   
spent with each hot convulsion.   
They remind me, distant now.

True, they are not at rest yet,   
but now that they are indeed   
apart, winnowed from failures,   
they withdraw to an orbit
and turn with disinterested   
hard energy, like the stars.

  • Thom Gunn, “My Sad Captains” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by Thom Gunn. Used by permission of Noonday Press, a division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, http://us.macmillan.com/fsg. All rights reserved.

  • Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1994)

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