The Man With Night Sweats

By Thom Gunn

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.
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