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luís soares

Blog do escritor Luís Soares

Thom Gunn - Lament

Your dying was a difficult enterprise.

First, petty things took up your energies,

The small but clustering duties of the sick,   

Irritant as the cough’s dry rhetoric.

Those hours of waiting for pills, shot, X-ray   

Or test (while you read novels two a day)   

Already with a kind of clumsy stealth

Distanced you from the habits of your health.

    In hope still, courteous still, but tired and thin,   

You tried to stay the man that you had been,   

Treating each symptom as a mere mishap   

Without import. But then the spinal tap.

It brought a hard headache, and when night came   

I heard you wake up from the same bad dream   

Every half-hour with the same short cry

Of mild outrage, before immediately

Slipping into the nightmare once again

Empty of content but the drip of pain.

No respite followed: though the nightmare ceased,   

Your cough grew thick and rich, its strength increased.   

Four nights, and on the fifth we drove you down   

To the Emergency Room. That frown, that frown:   

I’d never seen such rage in you before

As when they wheeled you through the swinging door.   

For you knew, rightly, they conveyed you from   

Those normal pleasures of the sun’s kingdom   

The hedonistic body basks within

And takes for granted—summer on the skin,   

Sleep without break, the moderate taste of tea   

In a dry mouth. You had gone on from me

As if your body sought out martyrdom   

In the far Canada of a hospital room.   

Once there, you entered fully the distress   

And long pale rigours of the wilderness.   

A gust of morphine hid you. Back in sight

You breathed through a segmented tube, fat, white,   

Jammed down your throat so that you could not speak.

    How thin the distance made you. In your cheek   

One day, appeared the true shape of your bone   

No longer padded. Still your mind, alone,   

Explored this emptying intermediate   

State for what holds and rests were hidden in it.

    You wrote us messages on a pad, amused   

At one time that you had your nurse confused   

Who, seeing you reconciled after four years   

With your grey father, both of you in tears,   

Asked if this was at last your ‘special friend’

(The one you waited for until the end).   

‘She sings,’ you wrote, ‘a Philippine folk song   

To wake me in the morning ... It is long   

And very pretty.’ Grabbing at detail   

To furnish this bare ledge toured by the gale,   

On which you lay, bed restful as a knife,   

You tried, tried hard, to make of it a life   

Thick with the complicating circumstance

Your thoughts might fasten on. It had been chance   

Always till now that had filled up the moment   

With live specifics your hilarious comment   

Discovered as it went along; and fed,   

Laconic, quick, wherever it was led.   

You improvised upon your own delight.   

I think back to the scented summer night   

We talked between our sleeping bags, below

A molten field of stars five years ago:

I was so tickled by your mind’s light touch

I couldn’t sleep, you made me laugh too much,   

Though I was tired and begged you to leave off.


Now you were tired, and yet not tired enough

—Still hungry for the great world you were losing   

Steadily in no season of your choosing—

And when at last the whole death was assured,   

Drugs having failed, and when you had endured   

Two weeks of an abominable constraint,   

You faced it equably, without complaint,   

Unwhimpering, but not at peace with it.   

You’d lived as if your time was infinite:   

You were not ready and not reconciled,   

Feeling as uncompleted as a child

Till you had shown the world what you could do   

In some ambitious role to be worked through,   

A role your need for it had half-defined,   

But never wholly, even in your mind.   

You lacked the necessary ruthlessness,   

The soaring meanness that pinpoints success.   

We loved that lack of self-love, and your smile,   

Rueful, at your own silliness.


Your lungs collapsed, and the machine, unstrained,   

Did all your breathing now. Nothing remained   

But death by drowning on an inland sea   

Of your own fluids, which it seemed could be   

Kindly forestalled by drugs. Both could and would:   

Nothing was said, everything understood,   

At least by us. Your own concerns were not   

Long-term, precisely, when they gave the shot

—You made local arrangements to the bed   

And pulled a pillow round beside your head.

    And so you slept, and died, your skin gone grey,   

Achieving your completeness, in a way.


Outdoors next day, I was dizzy from a sense   

Of being ejected with some violence

From vigil in a white and distant spot   

Where I was numb, into this garden plot

Too warm, too close, and not enough like pain.   

I was delivered into time again

—The variations that I live among

Where your long body too used to belong   

And where the still bush is minutely active.   

You never thought your body was attractive,   

Though others did, and yet you trusted it   

And must have loved its fickleness a bit

Since it was yours and gave you what it could,   

Till near the end it let you down for good,   

Its blood hospitable to those guests who   

Took over by betraying it into

The greatest of its inconsistencies

This difficult, tedious, painful enterprise.



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