Reading: The Hug by Thom Gunn

Thom Gunn (1929-2004) was an English poet. I’ve read another verse (tamer and hawk) by his hand before. Today I read a simple poem that says something I find lovely.

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.

I love such birthdays and adjacent nights, and the idea that you can visit an old friend on your birthday. The full-body snug hug is decribed wonderfully with the instep fitting the heel, the shoulder-blades against her chest (not breasts). Two interlocking bodies, set or braced against each other in a fresh way. The ‘intervening’ experiences in between have been deleted.

The embrace is ‘secure and firm and dry’ – and is here to stay. Deleting the intervening time and place made the moment appear timeless. The drowsiness made knowing anything beyond the embrace nearly impossible. Here we can find consolation, perhaps more than in any other gesture we are capable of.

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