Stephen Dunn and the end of it all
May 30, 2012

from Stephen Dunn’s “Loves” in The Landscape at the End of the Century  (full text here)

…I love the rituals that bring us
together when sullenness persists,
how the dishes must be done,
the children helped toward bed.
I love how familiar bodies drift
back to each other
wordlessly, when the light go out.
Oh we will die soon enough.
Not enough can be said
for a redemptive caress.
How good it’s been to slide back
the heart’s hood awhile, how fortunate
there’s a heart and a covering for it,
and that whatever is still warm
has a chance.
I’m withholding things of course,
secrets I’ll replay, alone,
when my bones go soft.
Even you have no place for them,
my spacious one, you who have existed
to resist me as I’ve made you up.
Do I sense you getting tired now?
Listen, my truest love, I’ve tried
to clear a late-century place for us
in among the shards.  Lie down,
tell me what else you need.
Here is where loveliness can live
with failure, and nothing’s complete.
I love how we go on.


friday’s self-reflections
September 30, 2011

Things that float

there is a heart beat
sending out ripples underwater.
This heart is a manatee
encased in its mother’s womb,
dreaming of murky waters.
It moves and the waters tremor,
she breathes and
her bubbles disturb tranquil surfaces.
(let it out, let it out, let it out)

there is something held in a hand:
a chestnut,
smooth in its oils,
touched by the same fingers
morningly and nightly,
over over and over.
It is sometimes in the pocket,
sometimes nestled in the palm.
(let it out, let it out, let it out)

there are things within other things.
I am one of those things.
I am between ribs and fingers,
between mirrors and bathroom doors.
I cannot breathe underwater
but I can swim.
I have air within me.
(let it out, let it out, let it out)

free verse
April 16, 2011


Tell me I’m a windmill.
Tell me that you know my design
and how nature was meant to move me.
Tell me you know the words to say
so that I will turn exactly the way I’m supposed to.
Tell me that you can move me in the wind of your breath,
then prove it.
Speak the words that have been welling up inside your lungs
like storm clouds.
I am not afraid of your bad weather,
and that’s saying something,
because they could name hurricanes after you.
But instead I am calling every flower by your name
and kissing every petal that opened after your rains.
I am licking every rain drop off my skin
and I can taste you in all of them.

Tell me I’m a library.
Tell me that my soul is lined with Shakespeare.
Tell me that you want to check out all of my volumes
and read them in the dark under a sheet with a flashlight.
Tell me that when I breathe in my sleep
you hear pages rustling.
Tell me that you have walked between my bookshelves
and have found the back corner where I hide all the stories
that no one is allowed to read,
then read them.
Read me and speak my own words to me so that
I know that you know who I am.

Tell me who I am,
because some days I forget that I have memorized my own lines,
and I feel like a foreign country to myself,
and my fingerprints look like street maps
to cities that I have never visited.
But you have left footprints on all of my sidewalks,
so walk down my main street with me
and hold my hand and remind me of my self.
And when I remember the feeling of my own skin,
I’ll take you down my alleyways and past my city limits
and show you the creek in my backyard,
and we’ll catch minnows in plastic buckets with yellow handles
and whistle at barn swallows.

I’ll tell you I’m a cello.
I’ll tell you that you are making
every part of my being resonate
in swimming startime springlight music,
and I’ll tell you that if you bring a bow
and if your hands know what to do,
you can tune me by ear
and play me by heart.