Showing 1 - 8 of 8 annotations associated with Dunn, Stephen
Summary:This short poem is about work--all kinds of work--and what it takes out of us--physically, emotionally, spiritually: "All the work / that makes love difficult . . . that reaches the intestines and sprawls."
This 15-line poem considers how, through the ages, dwarves have been ridiculed. Something about their appearance makes us, in our "big, proper bodies" laugh at them. We "snicker" at the immensely obese as well, even as we are aware of the danger to their health. Then the narrator takes us one step further: "And imagine the small political base / of a fat dwarf."
In the final stanza, the "we" becomes restricted to the narrator and his friends, who are socializing over dinner and can "hardly contain" themselves. But does that let the rest of us--the complicitous larger audience--off the hook?
After an argument with his wife, Dunn’s narrator considers differences between his instinctive male response to differences, and reliance on words. She always "argues beyond winning," "skewering him into silence." Next day she has forgotten her words, while he remembers each one wondering "if recovering from them is possible."
As a boy in the schoolyard he learned to argue with his fists, while she and her girlfriends [were] "learning other lessons." He, like other boys/men, didn’t use and is unable to perceive that her words, however wrong, derive from "much hurt and love." So what’s going on here? He is silent, resentful, feeling a need to strike or punch. She, on the other hand says to excess what she feels, using words, the skills she learned as a girl.
- Davis, Cortney
In the first of this poem's three stanzas, the narrator is looking out the window, presumably on or near his fiftieth birthday. He watches as a baby possum is snatched up by a fox while the possum's mother stands dumbly by. Seeing this, the narrator notes that it is one more thing he "couldn't do anything about." In fact, he sees the drama dispassionately. He says that instead of "feeling very much" he had the sense of "something dull / like a small door being shut, / a door to someone else's house."
In the next stanza, later that night, the narrator is flipping through the TV channels but stops when he is captivated by a nurse who "had a beautiful smile / while she spoke about triage and death." Again he observes death from afar as the nurse talks about her experiences in Viet Nam and how a dying soldier asked her to bend closer so he could smell her hair.
In the final stanza, the narrator's wife comes home, tired. The narrator, however, is somehow energized; he wants to talk about the possum, the fox, and the young man who "wanted one last chaste sense / of a woman." The wife wants a drink, some music, everything "normal." But the narrator, transformed by the nurse's smile, its "pretty hint of pain / the other expressions it concealed," is no longer just an observer.
He now has "something to say," something almost inexpressible about life and death, the death that he is moving closer to but was, at the poem's beginning, unable to face. The nurse's experience--her proximity to death, her ability not only to observe but to acknowledge and honor it--has somehow transformed him.
In this poem, dedicated to his brother, Stephen Dunn reflects back on childhood (and childish) parent-child relationships. The first stanza concerns the dead and the stories that keep them alive: parents who "died at least twice, / the second time when we forgot their stories . . . " The transitional second stanza asks, "what is the past if not unfinished work," prefacing the last stanza, in which the adult poet recognizes how self centered children are--"the only needy people on earth"--and wonders what his parents "must have wanted . . . back from us." But, he concludes, "We know what it is, don't we? / We've been alive long enough."
Summary:This poem is one of several by Stephen Dunn in which the dynamics of married life are examined. The speaker begins by saying that in marriage "anything that can happen between two people" eventually will, including things that cause incredible hurt and pain. The couple portrayed in the poem stays together through tacit agreement; whatever the hurtful event, neither refers to it. Instead, conversation centers on harmless subjects such as the garden, work, and little aches. While living together in the same house, the couple remains separate because forgiveness is not forthcoming for the spouse who trespassed.
Dunn's poem describes the choreography of married couples after an argument. The narrative voice considers how silence is imposed, then broken and how two people eventually come together after an unpleasant exchange of words. There are, according to the speaker, unspoken rules and rituals. First, a long silence permeates: after all, "whoever spoke first would lose something." In this household drama there is meaning to the clanging of dishes, sleeping arrangements, and accidental touching.
Eventually, one or the other is careless, spontaneously and shamelessly breaking the Yalta-like stalemate with an observation about something ordinary such as a "cardinal on the bird seeder." An accidental comment secures a truce, bringing the couple together in sex, a "knot untying itself."
This disturbing poem describes a locker room scene in which a young man feels compelled to tell his male companions and fellow handball players, "how he did it to her and what she did to him." According to the narrator, completion of the sex act for the man depends, it seems, on such indiscreet accounts. Prior to the disclosure, the men had been self-congratulatory, saying that their game "had been terrific." Readers are left wondering what the now naked sportsmen would say; would the story be seen as another "terrific" game or would the offender be checked?