Thom Gunn

(29 August 1929 – 25 April 2004 / England)

On The Move 'Man, You Gotta Go.'


The blue jay scuffling in the bushes follows
Some hidden purpose, and the gush of birds
That spurts across the field, the wheeling swallows,
Have nested in the trees and undergrowth.
Seeking their instinct, or their pose, or both,
One moves with an uncertain violence
Under the dust thrown by a baffled sense
Or the dull thunder of approximate words.

On motorcycles, up the road, they come:
Small, black, as flies hanging in heat, the Boy,
Until the distance throws them forth, their hum
Bulges to thunder held by calf and thigh.
In goggles, donned impersonality,
In gleaming jackets trophied with the dust,
They strap in doubt--by hiding it, robust--
And almost hear a meaning in their noise.

Exact conclusion of their hardiness
Has no shape yet, but from known whereabouts
They ride, directions where the tires press.
They scare a flight of birds across the field:
Much that is natural, to the will must yield.
Men manufacture both machine and soul,
And use what they imperfectly control
To dare a future from the taken routes.

It is part solution, after all.
One is not necessarily discord
On Earth; or damned because, half animal,
One lacks direct instinct, because one wakes
Afloat on movement that divides and breaks.
One joins the movement in a valueless world,
Crossing it, till, both hurler and the hurled,
One moves as well, always toward, toward.

A minute holds them, who have come to go:
The self-denied, astride the created will.
They burst away; the towns they travel through
Are home for neither birds nor holiness,
For birds and saints complete their purposes.
At worse, one is in motion; and at best,
Reaching no absolute, in which to rest,
One is always nearer by not keeping still.


Submitted by Andrew Mayers

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Comments about this poem (On The Move 'Man, You Gotta Go.' by Thom Gunn )

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  • * Sunprincess * (5/27/2014 8:52:00 AM)

    .........a great poem with a great message.....we should trust our instincts more....enjoyed... (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (6/27/2009 7:42:00 PM)

    THERE ARE SO FEW OF THE GREAT POEMS FROM GUNN'S COLLECTION, 'A Sense of Movement', POSTED ON PH. THIS IS ONE OF THEM (AND I BELIEVE 'To Yvor Winters' IS ANOTHER) . WHAT GIVES? (Report) Reply

  • Nenita24 Mbaye (5/11/2007 5:06:00 PM)

    Compliments of the day to you.
    I am Miss nenita fred I am single,23yrs.However How are you? hope you are fine and in perfect condition of health.I went through your profile and i read it and took intersest in it, if you don't mind i will like to know you much better, although i came online to look for a true and loving man that is ready for a true, honest and loving relationship and will be able to take good care of me if you are the kind of man am talking about then send me a mail now on my private email (nenita_4life77@yahoo.co.uk) included, so that i will tell you all about myself and a picture of myself.looking forward to hear from you, thanks and God bless
    miss nenita (Report) Reply

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