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By Thom Gunn

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)

  • Living
  • Love
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Thom Gunn
Born in England, Thom Gunn moved to San Francisco in 1954 and embraced American culture. Often using traditional forms, Gunn addressed daring contemporary issues from drugs to homosexuality to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, when he watched many of his friends die. Author of over 30 books of poetry, his 1992 volume, The Man With Night Sweats, won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

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