Our Parents

Dunn, Stephen

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Aug-01-2002


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."


This is an interesting meditation on parent-child relationships--relationships that continue, and continue to change, long after parents have died, and on how storytelling both sustains and alters the past and those relationships. It is also a poem about "growing up"--growing out of one's self.


The collection in which this poem appears (Different Hours) won the Pulitzer Prize.

Primary Source

Different Hours


W. W. Norton

Place Published

New York