from Ted Hughes’ Gaudete (1977)

[From The Epilogue Poems]

A doctor extracted

From my blood its tusk


The mountain-root from my body


The seven-seas’ spring from under my eye-tooth

Emptied my skull

Of clouds and stars

Pounded up what was left

Dried it and lit it and read by its flame

A story to his child

About a God

Who ripped his mother’s womb

And entered it, with a sword and a torch

To find a father.


I hear your congregations at their rapture

Cries from birds, long ago perfect

And from the awkward gullets of beasts

That will not chill into syntax.

And I hear speech, the bossed Neanderthal brow-ridge

Gone into beetling talk

The Java Man’s bone grinders sublimed into chat.

Words buckle the voice in tighter, closer

Under the midriff

Till the cry rots, and speech

Is a fistula

Eking and deferring

Like a stupid or a crafty doctor

With his year after year

Of sanguinary nostrums

Of almosts and their tomorrows

Through a lifetime of fees.