A Sketch of the Great Dejection
by Thom Gunn
Having read the promise of the hedgerow
the body set out anew on its adventures.
At length it came to a place of poverty,
of inner and outer famine,
where all movement had stopped
except for that of the wind, which was continual
and came from elsewhere, from the sea,
moving across unplanted fields and between headstones
in the little churchyard dogged with nettles
where no one came between Sundays, and few then.
The wind was like a punishment to the face and hands.
These were marshes of privation:
the mud of the ditches oozed scummy water,
the grey reeds were arrested in growth,
the sun did not show, even as a blur,
and the uneven lands were without definition
as I was without potent words,
I sat upon a disintegrating gravestone.
How can I continue, I asked?
I longed to whet my senses, but upon what?
On mud? It was a desert of raw mud.
I was tempted by fantasies of the past,
but my body rejected them, for only in the present
could it pursue the promise,
keeping open to its fulfilment.
I would not, either, sink into the mud,
warming it with the warmth I brought to it,
as in a sty of sloth.
My body insisted on restlessness
having been promised love,
as my mind insisted on words
having been promised the imagination.
So I remained alert, confused and uncomforted.
I fared on and, though the landscape did not change,
it came to seem after a while like a place of recuperation.