Spent the last couple of days reading “Passages of Joy” by Thom Gunn, which was, on the whole, middling. The opening poem however, “Elegy”, was worth the entrance fee all on its own…I mean what an opening stanza:


I can almost see it

Thin, tall, half-handsome

the thin hungry sweetness

of his smile gone

as he makes up his mind

and walks behind the barn

in his thin pointed boots

over the crackling eucalyptus leaves

and shoots himself in the head


Even the terror

of leaving life like that

better than the terror

of being unable to handle it


Though I hardly knew him

I rehearse it again and again

Did he smell eucalyptus last?

No it was his own blood

as he choked on it


They keep leaving me

and they don’t

tell me they don’t

warn me that this is

the last time I’ll be seeing them


as they drop away

like Danny or

slowly estrange themselves


There will be no turn of the river

where we are all reunited

in a wonderful party

the picnic spread

all the lost found

as in hide and seek


An odd comfort

that the way we are always

most in agreement

is in playing the same game

where everyone always gets lost


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