The Guide of Tiresias

I think of Oedipus,
   old, led by a boy 
     —Thom Gunn

Never was there a time when I did not lead him,
when I did not feel his hand upon my shoulder.

Never was there a time I was not his eyes
to tell him here lies Thebes, and there stands Corinth,

here the rocks have given way, and there two snakes coil 
like twisted rope looking for a neck to hang on.

Sometimes I thought he was my mother, so gently
did he hold me when I was sick, so tenderly 

did he wash me at the end of a long journey 
when he could barely stand, his arms stiff and shrivelled.

Sometimes I thought he might be my father, so strong
was his grip on my body to keep me from danger,

so firm his warnings, so stern his admonitions. 
And then at times he was my child, and hungrily

fed on my warmth and caresses, afraid of what
others—burning with questions—might force him to say.

“What will happen to us?” he would cry at nightfall 
as if he did not already know the answer.