Dunn, Stephen

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita
  • Date of entry: Dec-17-1996
  • Last revised: Aug-24-2006


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.


See also Dunn’s poems, After the Argument and Long Term in this database and some poems by Sharon Olds. Emergency Room physicians and numerous articles have pointed out the high incidence of broken hands or bruised knuckles in men, who, when frustrated, slam their fists into walls. Others, of course, hit the person who causes offense or rage.

Primary Source

Local Time


William Morrow: Quill

Place Published

New York




Dave Smith