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Stephen Dunn Poems

A collection of select Stephen Dunn famous poems that were written by Stephen Dunn or written about the poet by other famous poets. PoetrySoup is a comprehensive educational resource of the greatest poems and poets on history.

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by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More



by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More



by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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-*****
  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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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,...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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,...Read More

by Dunn, Stephen
 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...Read More