Friday, July 17, 2015

Two Poems by Stephen Dunn


I tell you nothing new when I say
here we are again, unable to claim
many moments of relief
from the confirmable gloom, though
there was a time, before news became
ubiquitous, when it was possible
to close our eyes and hide in our rooms.
The excitement of bones found
in mass graves—not ours, the remains
of mastodons and dinosaurs—told us
something of our past. Now we see
face down in ditches
our neighbors with whom we once
broke bread, whose children played
in our yards, and everywhere
colossal denials of blame.
I tell you nothing new, Andre. I dare
boring you, Miguel, with what
you already know, the enemy
suddenly the enemy, down on your knees,
motherfucker, for being down on
your knees to the wrong god.
I dare boring you because the shovels
are blades, the dirt is bloody, and I need
to remind myself of the creatures
we are and have been—remnants
everywhere. No need, really, to dig.

To a Terrorist

For the historical ache, the ache passed down
which finds its circumstance and becomes
the present ache, I offer this poem

without hope, knowing there's nothing,
not even revenge, which alleviates
a life like yours. I offer it as one

might offer his father's ashes
to the wind, a gesture
when there's nothing else to do.

Still, I must say to you:
I hate your good reasons.
I hate the hatefulness that makes you fall

in love with death, your own included.
Perhaps you're hating me now,
I who own my own house

and live in a country so muscular,
so smug, it thinks its terror is meant
only to mean well, and to protect.

Christ turned his singular cheek,
one man's holiness, another's absurdity.
Like you, the rest of us obey the sting,

the surge. I'm just speaking out loud
to cancel my silence. Consider it an old impulse,
doomed to become mere words.

The first poet probably spoke to thunder
and, for a while, believed
thunder had an ear and a choice.

Stephen Dunn is the author of 19 books of poetry: Looking for Holes in the Ceiling, University of Massachusetts Press, 1974; Full of Lust and Good Usage, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1976; A Circus of Needs, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1978; Work and Love, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1981; Not Dancing, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1984; Local Time, Quill/Morrow, 1986; Between Angels, Norton, 1989; Landscape at the End of the Century, Norton, 1991; New and Selected Poems: 1974-1994, Norton, 1994; Loosestrife, Norton, 1996; Different Hours, Norton, 2000; Local Visitations, Norton, 2003; The Insistence of Beauty, Norton, 2004; Everything Else in the World, Norton, 2006; What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009, Norton, 2009; Here and Now, Norton, 2011; Lines of Defense, Norton, 2014; Keeper of Limits, Sarabande 2015; and Whereas, Norton 2016. Prose: Walking Light: Essays and Memoirs, Norton, 1993, revised edition, BOA Editions, 2001; (Author of foreword) Juanita Tobin, Ransom Street Quartet: Poems and Stories, Parkway, 1995; Riffs & Reciprocities: Prose Pairs, Norton, 1998.

His poems have been published in various periodicals such as Poetry, The New Yorker, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Antaeus, Boulevard, Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, and many others. Among numerous awards and recognitions, Dunn was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Different Hours.

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