Stephen Dunn’s “Here and There”

I’m not sure which of you You, though I’m postive Whiskey River was one of several, led me to order Stephen Dunn’s New and Selected Poems 1974-1994 awhile ago, but I have finally started reading it.

So far I’ve managed to be annoyed by the fact that all the new poems are in the first section, and for some reason I failed to realize that before I finished the section (of course, this is just a personal peeve), but I’ve read his poems from 1974 to 1981 and only found two poems that I’ve really connected to. Luckily, having read the first section, I know that the poetry does get better at some point.

Here’s the one I probably like best so far:

Here and There

Here and there nightfall
without fanfare
presses down, utterly
expected, not an omen in sight.
Here and there a husband
at the usual time
goes to bed with his wife
and doesn’t dream of other women.
Occasionally a terrible sigh
is heard, the kind that is
theatrical, to be ignored.
Or a car backfires
and reminds us of a car
backfiring, not of a gunshot.
Here and there a man says
what he means and people hear him
and are not confused.
Here and there a missing teenage girl
comes home unscarred.
Sometimes dawn just brings another
day, full of minor
pleasures and small complaints.
And when the newspaper arrives
with the world,
people make kindling of it
and sit together while it burns.

The fact that it’s on Garrison Keillor’s site probably says more about the poem than anything I’m going to say here, but it does dovetail with a point I’ve made here before. Most of our lives are not nearly as traumatic as the newspapers would have us believe. In fact, if we’d turn off the news and make kindling out of the newspaper, we’d probably have a much more optimistic view of our own lives.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I seldom dream of women at all nowadays. Unfortunately, since Vietnam, I’m unable to sleep through gunshots at night and even in my upper middle class neighborhood I’m too often awakened by gunfire, not a car backfiring.

But truthfully, even at my age most of my days are “full of minor/ pleasures and small complaints,” and that’s the way I like it.

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