[from Thom Gunn's Collected Poems, 1994]
Nightmare of beasthood, snorting, how to wake.
I woke. What beasthood skin she made me take?
Leather toad that ruts for days on end,
Or cringing dribbling dog, man's servile friend,
Or cat that prettily pounces on its meat,
Tortures it hours, then does not care to eat:
Parrot, moth, shark, wolf, crocodile, ass, flea.
What germs, what jostling mobs there were in me.
These seem like bristles, and the hide is tough.
No claw or web here: each foot ends in hoof.
Into what bulk has method disappeared?
Like ham, streaked, I am gross — gray, gross, flap-eared.
The pale-lashed eyes my only human feature.
My teeth tear, tear. I am the snouted creature
That bites through anything, root, wire, or can.
If I was not afraid I'd eat a man.
Oh a man's flesh already is mine.
Hand and foot poised for risk. Buried in swine.
I root and root, you think that is greed,
It is, but I seek out a plant I need.
Direct me, gods, whose changes are all holy,
To where it flickers deep in grass, the moly:
Cool flesh of magic in each leaf and shoot,
From milky flower to the black forked root.
From this fat dungeon I could rise to skin
And human title, putting pig within.
I push my big gray wet snout through the green,
Dreaming the flower I have never seen.