Poetry Friday: The Hug

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I thought it’d be nice to introduce some more regular posting, and to take the opportunity to share some things I find inspirational or interesting here.  I love poetry; I read quite a bit of it, mostly for work but am trying to read some more modern work as well, and there’s something truly stunning about the way poets manage to use language in such a concise and glorious way.

The Hug

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
Half of the night with our old friend
Who’d showed us in the end
To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
Your instep to my heel,
My shoulder-blades against your chest.
It was not sex, but I could feel
The whole strength of your body set,
Or braced, to mine,
And locking me to you
As if we were still twenty-two
When our grand passion had not yet
Become familial.
My quick sleep had deleted all
Of intervening time and place.
I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.
Thomas Gunn

What I love about this poem is the quiet intimacy that Gunn’s created; this is a long-established relationship, one that was as passionate as you would hope for but has developed far, far beyond that into something everlasting, comforting and familiar, yet still incredibly loving.
This sleepy tone is set in part by the rhythm – “of intervening time and place” is a great example, where the rhythm is undeniable, but is itself slow and sleepy. The simplicity of the language too is beautiful, no need for overblown images or grand metaphor (both have their place, elsewhere) but a very simple view of this relationship.
In sleep, the lovers reach for one another but there’s no sensation of disorientation, simply that they feel, in that moment when one is woken briefly by the other, that they are just as they were when they were 22 and just starting to be in love.

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