January 20, 2017


It was everywhere, in the streets and houses,
on farms and now in the air itself.
It had come from history and we were history
so it had come from us.
I told my artist friends who courted it
not to suffer
on purpose, not to fall in love
with sadness
because it would naturally be theirs
without assistance,
I had sad stories of my own,
but they made me quiet
the way my parents’ failures once did,
nobody’s business
but our own, and, besides, what was left to say
these days
when the unspeakable was out there being spoken,
exhausting all sympathy?
Yet, feeling it, how difficult to keep
the face’s curtains
closed – she left, he left, they died –
the heart rising
into the mouth and eyes, everything so basic,
so unhistorical
at such times. And then, too, the woes
of others would get in,
but mostly I was inured and out
to make a decent buck
or in pursuit of some slippery pleasure
that was sadness disguised.
I found it, it found me, oh
my artist friends
give it up, just mix your paints,
the strokes unmistakably will be yours.

Stephen Dunn

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