Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


The Man with Night Sweats

I wake up cold, I who
Prospered through dreams of heat 
Wake to their residue, 
Sweat, and a clinging sheet. 

My flesh was its own shield: 
Where it was gashed, it healed.

I grew as I explored 
The body I could trust 
Even while I adored
The risk that made robust,

A world of wonders in
Each challenge to the skin.

I cannot but be sorry
The given shield was cracked,
My mind reduced to hurry, 
My flesh reduced and wrecked.

I have to change the bed, 
But catch myself instead

Stopped upright where I am 
Hugging my body to me 
As if to shield it from 
The pains that will go through me,
      
As if hands were enough 
To hold an avalanche off.

Credit


From Collected Poems by Thom Gunn. Copyright © 1994 by Thom Gunn.

Author


Thom Gunn

The author of many collections of poetry, Thom Gunn's The Man with Night Sweats is a collection of poetry memorializing his friends and loved ones who had fallen victim to AIDS.

Date Published: 1994-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/man-night-sweats