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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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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.

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.

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.

by Stephen Dunn |


 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.

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.

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.

by Stephen Dunn |


 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.

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.

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.

by Stephen Dunn |

Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry

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.
, 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.