(A fortune cookie)
The Hug by Thom Gunn
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
My quick sleep had deleted all
Of intervening time and place.
I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.
The Hug by Thom Gunn
The Savior must have been
A docile Gentleman—
To come so far so cold a Day
For little Fellowmen—
The Road to Bethlehem
Since He and I were Boys
Was leveled, but for that ‘twould be
A rugged Billion Miles—
So now is come our joyful feast, Let every man be jolly; Each room with ivy leaves is dressed, And every post with holly. Though some churls at our mirth repine, Round your foreheads garlands twine, Drown sorrow in a cup of wine, And let us all be merry. Now all our neighbors’ chimnies smoke, And Christmas blocks are burning; Their ovens they with baked meats choke, And all their spits are turning. Without the door let sorrow lie, And if for cold it hap to die, We’ll bury it in a Christmas pie, And evermore be merry. Now every lad is wondrous trim, And no man minds his labor; Our lasses have provided them A bagpipe and a tabor. Young men and maids, and girls and boys, Give life to one another’s joys; And you anon shall by their noise Perceive that they are merry. Rank misers now do sparing shun, Their hall of music soundeth; And dogs thence with whole shoulders run, So all things aboundeth. The country-folk themselves advance, For crowdy-mutton’s come out of France; And Jack shall pipe and Jill shall dance, And all the town be merry. Ned Swatch hath fetched his bands from pawn, And all his best apparel; Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn With droppings of the barrel. And those that hardly all the year Had bread to eat or rags to wear, Will have both clothes and dainty fare, And all the day be merry. Now poor men to the justices With capons make their errands; And if they hap to fail of these, They plague them with their warrants. But now they feed them with good cheer, And what they want they take in beer, For Christmas comes but once a year, And then they shall be merry. Good farmers in the country nurse The poor, that else were undone; Some landlords spend their money worse, On lust and pride at London. There the roisters they do play, Drab and dice their land away, Which may be ours another day; And therefore let’s be merry. The client now his suit forbears, The prisoner’s heart is eased; The debtor drinks away his cares, And for the time is pleased. Though others’ purses be more fat, Why should we pine or grieve at that; Hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, And therefore let’s be merry. Hark how the wags abroad do call Each other forth to rambling; Anon you’ll see them in the hall, For nuts and apples scrambling; Hark how the roofs with laughters sound, Anon they’ll think the house goes round; For they the cellar’s depths have found, And there they will be merry. The wenches with their wassail-bowls About the streets are singing; The boys are come to catch the owls, The wild mare in is bringing. Our kitchen boy hath broke his box, And to the dealing of the ox Our honest neighbors come by flocks, And here they will be merry. Now kings and queens poor sheep-cotes have, And mate with everybody; The honest now may play the knave, And wise men play at noddy. Some youths will now a mumming go, Some others play at rowland-hoe, And twenty other gameboys moe; Because they will be merry. Then wherefore in these merry days Should we, I pray, be duller? No, let us sing some roundelays To make our mirth the fuller. And whilst we thus inspired sing, Let all the streets with echoes ring; Woods, and hills, and everything Bear witness we are merry.
All my undone actions wander
naked across the calendar,
a band of skinny hunter-gatherers,
blown snow scattered here and there,
stumbling toward a future
folded in the New Year I secure
with a pushpin: January’s picture
a painting from the 17th century,
a still life: Skull and mirror,
spilled coin purse and a flower.