[from Thom Gunn's The Man with Night Sweats, 1992]
Odysseus on Hermes
I was seduced by innocence
— beard scarcely visible on his chin —
by the god within.
The incompletion of youth
like the new limb of the cactus growing
— soft-green — not fully formed
the spines still soft and living,
potent in potential,
in process and so
still open to the god.
When complete and settled
then closed to the god.
So sensing it in him
I was seduced by the god,
becoming in my thick maturity
still being formed —
in the vulnerability, edges flowing,
myself open to the god.
I took his drug
and all came out right in the story.
Still thinking back
I seek to renew that power
so easily got
seek to find again that knack
of opening my settled features,
creased on themselves,
to the astonishing kiss and gift
of the wily god to the wily man.
The Man with Night Sweats: Poems