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Best Famous Stephen Dunn Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Stephen Dunn poems. This is a select list of the best famous Stephen Dunn poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Stephen Dunn poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Stephen Dunn poems.

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Written by Stephen Dunn | |

At The Smithville Methodist Church

 It was supposed to be Arts & Crafts for a week, 
but when she came home 
with the "Jesus Saves" button, we knew what art 
was up, what ancient craft.
She liked her little friends.
She liked the songs they sang when they weren't twisting and folding paper into dolls.
What could be so bad? Jesus had been a good man, and putting faith in good men was what we had to do to stay this side of cynicism, that other sadness.
OK, we said, One week.
But when she came home singing "Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so," it was time to talk.
Could we say Jesus doesn't love you? Could I tell her the Bible is a great book certain people use to make you feel bad? We sent her back without a word.
It had been so long since we believed, so long since we needed Jesus as our nemesis and friend, that we thought he was sufficiently dead, that our children would think of him like Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson.
Soon it became clear to us: you can't teach disbelief to a child, only wonderful stories, and we hadn't a story nearly as good.
On parents' night there were the Arts & Crafts all spread out like appetizers.
Then we took our seats in the church and the children sang a song about the Ark, and Hallelujah and one in which they had to jump up and down for Jesus.
I can't remember ever feeling so uncertain about what's comic, what's serious.
Evolution is magical but devoid of heroes.
You can't say to your child "Evolution loves you.
" The story stinks of extinction and nothing exciting happens for centuries.
I didn't have a wonderful story for my child and she was beaming.
All the way home in the car she sang the songs, occasionally standing up for Jesus.
There was nothing to do but drive, ride it out, sing along in silence.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry

 Relax.
This won't last long.
Or if it does, or if the lines make you sleepy or bored, give in to sleep, turn on the T.
V.
, deal the cards.
This poem is built to withstand such things.
Its feelings cannot be hurt.
They exist somewhere in the poet, and I am far away.
Pick it up anytime.
Start it in the middle if you wish.
It is as approachable as melodrama, and can offer you violence if it is violence you like.
Look, there's a man on a sidewalk; the way his leg is quivering he'll never be the same again.
This is your poem and I know you're busy at the office or the kids are into your last nerve.
Maybe it's sex you've always wanted.
Well, they lie together like the party's unbuttoned coats, slumped on the bed waiting for drunken arms to move them.
I don't think you want me to go on; everyone has his expectations, but this is a poem for the entire family.
Right now, Budweiser is dripping from a waterfall, deodorants are hissing into armpits of people you resemble, and the two lovers are dressing now, saying farewell.
I don't know what music this poem can come up with, but clearly it's needed.
For it's apparent they will never see each other again and we need music for this because there was never music when he or she left you standing on the corner.
You see, I want this poem to be nicer than life.
I want you to look at it when anxiety zigzags your stomach and the last tranquilizer is gone and you need someone to tell you I'll be here when you want me like the sound inside a shell.
The poem is saying that to you now.
But don't give anything for this poem.
It doesn't expect much.
It will never say more than listening can explain.
Just keep it in your attache case or in your house.
And if you're not asleep by now, or bored beyond sense, the poem wants you to laugh.
Laugh at yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.
Come on: Good.
Now here's what poetry can do.
Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There's an awful shrug and, suddenly, You're beautiful for as long as you live.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

I Come Home Wanting To Touch Everyone

 The dogs greet me, I descend
into their world of fur and tongues
and then my wife and I embrace
as if we'd just closed the door
in a motel, our two girls slip in
between us and we're all saying
each other's names and the dogs
Buster and Sundown are on their hind legs,
people-style, seeking more love.
I've come home wanting to touch everyone, everything; usually I turn the key and they're all lost in food or homework, even the dogs are preoccupied with themselves, I desire only to ease back in, the mail, a drink, but tonight the body-hungers have sent out their long-range signals or love itself has risen from its squalor of neglect.
Everytime the kids turn their backs I touch my wife's breasts and when she checks the dinner the unfriendly cat on the dishwasher wants to rub heads, starts to speak with his little motor and violin-- everything, everyone is intelligible in the language of touch, and we sit down to dinner inarticulate as blood, all difficulties postponed because the weather is so good.


More great poems below...

Written by Stephen Dunn | |

With No Experience In Such Matters

 To hold a damaged sparrow
under water until you feel it die
is to know a small something
about the mind; how, for example,
it blames the cat for the original crime,
how it wants praise for its better side.
And yet it's as human as pulling the plug on your Dad whose world has turned to feces and fog, human as-- Well, let's admit, it's a mild thing as human things go.
But I felt the one good wing flutter in my palm-- the smallest protest, if that's what it was, I ever felt or heard.
Reminded me of how my eyelid has twitched, the need to account for it.
Hard to believe no one notices.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Named

 He'd spent his life trying to control the names
  people gave him;
oh the unfair and the accurate equally hurt.
Just recently he'd been a son-of-a-bitch and sweetheart in the same day, and once again knew what antonyms love and control are, and how comforting it must be to have a business card - Manager, Specialist - and believe what it says.
Who, in fact, didn't want his most useful name to enter with him, when he entered a room, who didn't want to be that kind of lie? A man who was a sweetheart and a son-of-a-bitch was also more or less every name he'd ever been called, and when you die, he thought, that's when it happens, you're collected forever into a few small words.
But never to have been outrageous or exquisite, no grand mistake so utterly yours it causes whispers in the peripheries of your presence - that was his fear.
"Reckless"; he wouldn't object to such a name if it came from the right voice with the right amount of reverence.
Someone nearby, of course, certain to add "fool.
"


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Biography In The First Person

 This is not the way I am.
Really, I am much taller in person, the hairline I conceal reaches back to my grandfather, and the shyness my wife will not believe in has always been why I was bold on first dates.
My father a crack salesman.
I've saved his pines, the small acclamations I used to show my friends.
And the billyclub I keep by my bed was his, too; an heirloom.
I am somewhat older than you can tell.
The early deaths have decomposed behind my eyes, leaving lines apparently caused by smiling.
My voice still reflects the time I believed in prayer as a way of getting what I wanted.
I am none of my clothes.
My poems are approximately true.
The games I play and how I play them are the arrows you should follow: they'll take you to the enormous body of a child.
It is not that simple.
At parties I have been known to remove from the bookshelf the kind of book that goes best with my beard.
My habits in bed are so perverse that they differentiate me from no one.
And I prefer soda, the bubbles just after it's opened, to anyone who just lies there.
Be careful: I would like to make you believe in me.
When I come home at night after teaching myself to students, I want to search the phone book for their numbers, call them, and pick their brains.
Oh, I am much less flamboyant than this.
If you ever meet me, I'll be the one with the lapel full of carnations.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

The Sudden Light And The Trees

 My neighbor was a biker, a pusher, a dog
and wife beater.
In bad dreams I killed him and once, in the consequential light of day, I called the Humane Society about Blue, his dog.
They took her away and I readied myself, a baseball bat inside my door.
That night I hear his wife scream and I couldn't help it, that pathetic relief; her again, not me.
It would be years before I'd understand why victims cling and forgive.
I plugged in the Sleep-Sound and it crashed like the ocean all the way to sleep.
One afternoon I found him on the stoop, a pistol in his hand, waiting, he said, for me.
A sparrow had gotten in to our common basement.
Could he have permission to shoot it? The bullets, he explained, might go through the floor.
I said I'd catch it, wait, give me a few minutes and, clear-eyed, brilliantly afraid, I trapped it with a pillow.
I remember how it felt when I got my hand, and how it burst that hand open when I took it outside, a strength that must have come out of hopelessness and the sudden light and the trees.
And I remember the way he slapped the gun against his open palm, kept slapping it, and wouldn't speak.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Slant

 Yesterday, for a long while,
the early morning sunlight
in the trees was sufficient,
replaced by a hello
from a long-limbed woman
pedaling her bike,
whereupon the wind came up,
dispersing the mosquitoes.
Blessings, all.
I'd come so far, it seemed, happily looking for so little.
But then I saw a cow in a room looking at the painting of a cow in a field -- all of which was a painting itself -- and I felt I'd been invited into the actual, someplace between the real and the real.
The trees, now, are trees I'm seeing myself seeing.
I'll always deny that I kissed her.
I was just whispering into her mouth.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Allegory Of The Cave

 He climbed toward the blinding light
and when his eyes adjusted
he looked down and could see

his fellow prisoners captivated
by shadows; everything he had believed
was false.
And he was suddenly in the 20th century, in the sunlight and violence of history, encumbered by knowledge.
Only a hero would dare return with the truth.
So from the cave's upper reaches, removed from harm, he called out the disturbing news.
What lovely echoes, the prisoners said, what a fine musical place to live.
He spelled it out, then, in clear prose on paper scraps, which he floated down.
But in the semi-dark they read his words with the indulgence of those who seldom read: It's about my father's death, one of them said.
No, said the others, it's a joke.
By this time he no longer was sure of what he'd seen.
Wasn't sunlight a shadow too? Wasn't there always a source behind a source? He just stood there, confused, a man who had moved to larger errors, without a prayer.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

The Routine Things Around The House

 When Mother died
I thought: now I'll have a death poem.
That was unforgivable.
Yet I've since forgiven myself as sons are able to do who've been loved by their mothers.
I stared into the coffin knowing how long she'd live, how many lifetimes there are in the sweet revisions of memory.
It's hard to know exactly how we ease ourselves back from sadness, but I remembered when I was twelve, 1951, before the world unbuttoned its blouse.
I had asked my mother (I was trembling) If I could see her breasts and she took me into her room without embarrassment or coyness and I stared at them, afraid to ask for more.
Now, years later, someone tells me Cancers who've never had mother love are doomed and I, a Cancer feel blessed again.
What luck to have had a mother who showed me her breasts when girls my age were developing their separate countries, what luck she didn't doom me with too much or too little.
Had I asked to touch, Perhaps to suck them, What would she have done? Mother, dead woman Who I think permits me to love women easily this poem is dedicated to where we stopped, to the incompleteness that was sufficient and to how you buttoned up, began doing the routine things around the house.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Essay On The Personal

 Because finally the personal
is all that matters,
we spend years describing stones,
chairs, abandoned farmhouses—
until we're ready.
Always it's a matter of precision, what it feels like to kiss someone or to walk out the door.
How good it was to practice on stones which were things we could love without weeping over.
How good someone else abandoned the farmhouse, bankrupt and desperate.
Now we can bring a fine edge to our parents.
We can hold hurt up to the sun for examination.
But just when we think we have it, the personal goes the way of belief.
What seemed so deep begins to seem naive, something that could be trusted because we hadn't read Plato or held two contradictory ideas or women in the same day.
Love, then, becomes an old movie.
Loss seems so common it belongs to the air, to breath itself, anyone's.
We're left with style, a particular way of standing and saying, the idiosyncratic look at the frown which means nothing until we say it does.
Years later, long after we believed it peculiar to ourselves, we return to love.
We return to everything strange, inchoate, like living with someone, like living alone, settling for the partial, the almost satisfactory sense of it.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Walking The Marshland

 It was no place for the faithless,
so I felt a little odd
walking the marshland with my daughters,

Canada geese all around and the blue 
herons just standing there;
safe, and the abundance of swans.
The girls liked saying the words, gosling, egret, whooping crane, and they liked when I agreed.
The casinos were a few miles to the east.
I liked saying craps and croupier and sometimes I wanted to be lost in those bright windowless ruins.
It was April, the gnats and black flies weren't out yet.
The mosquitoes hadn't risen from their stagnant pools to trouble paradise and to give us the great right to complain.
I loved these girls.
The world beyond Brigantine awaited their beauty and beauty is what others want to own.
I'd keep that to myself.
The obvious was so sufficient just then.
Sandpiper.
Red-wing Blackbird.
"Yes," I said.
But already we were near the end.
Praise refuge, I thought.
Praise whatever you can.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Landscape At The End Of The Century

 The sky in the trees, the trees mixed up
with what's left of heaven, nearby a patch
of daffodils rooted down
where dirt and stones comprise a kind
of night, unmetaphysical, cool as a skeptic's
final sentence.
What this scene needs is a nude absentmindedly sunning herself on a large rock, thinks the man fed up with nature, or perhaps a lost tiger, the maximum amount of wildness a landscape can bear, but the man knows and fears his history of tampering with everything, and besides to anyone who might see him he's just a figure in a clearing in a forest in a universe that is as random as desire itself, his desire in particular, so much going on with and without him, moles humping up the ground near the daffodils, a mockingbird publishing its cacaphonous anthology, and those little Calvinists, the ants, making it all the more difficult for a person in America to close his office, skip to the beach.
But what this scene needs are wisteria and persimmons, thinks the woman sunning herself absentmindedly on the rock, a few magnificent words that one might want to eat if one were a lover of words, the hell with first principles, the noon sun on my body, tempered by a breeze that cannot be doubted.
And as she thinks, she who exists only in the man's mind, a deer grazes beyond their knowing, a deer tick riding its back, and in the gifted air mosquitos, dragonflies, and tattered mute angels no one has called upon in years.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Welcome

 if you believe nothing is always what's left
after a while, as I did,
If you believe you have this collection
of ungiven gifts, as I do (right here
behind the silence and the averted eyes)
If you believe an afternoon can collapse
into strange privacies-
how in your backyard, for example,
the shyness of flowers can be suddenly
overwhelming, and in the distance
the clear goddamn of thunder
personal, like a voice,
If you believe there's no correct response
to death, as I do; that even in grief
(where I've sat making plans)
there are small corners of joy
If your body sometimes is a light switch
in a house of insomniacs
If you can feel yourself straining
to be yourself every waking minute
If, as I am, you are almost smiling .
.
.


Written by Stephen Dunn | |

Story

 A woman's taking her late-afternoon walk
on Chestnut where no sidewalk exists
and houses with gravel driveways
sit back among the pines.
Only the house with the vicious dog is close to the road.
An electric fence keeps him in check.
When she comes to that house, the woman always crosses to the other side.
I'm the woman's husband.
It's a problem loving your protagonist too much.
Soon the dog is going to break through that fence, teeth bared, and go for my wife.
She will be helpless.
I'm out of town, helpless too.
Here comes the dog.
What kind of dog? A mad dog, a dog like one of those teenagers who just loses it on the playground, kills a teacher.
Something's going to happen that can't happen in a good story: out of nowhere a car comes and kills the dog.
The dog flies in the air, lands in a patch of delphiniums.
My wife is crying now.
The woman who hit the dog has gotten out of her car.
She holds both hands to her face.
The woman who owns the dog has run out of her house.
Three women crying in the street, each for different reasons.
All of this is so unlikely; it's as if I've found myself in a country of pure fact, miles from truth's more demanding realm.
When I listened to my wife's story on the phone I knew I'd take it from her, tell it every which way until it had an order and a deceptive period at the end.
That's what I always do in the face of helplessness, make some arrangements if I can.
Praise the odd, serendipitous world.
Nothing I'd be inclined to think of would have stopped that dog.
Only the facts saved her.