by Stephen Dunn
For the historical ache, the ache passed down
which finds its circumstance and becomes
the present ache, I offer this poem
without hope, knowing there’s nothing,
not even revenge, which alleviates
a life like yours. I offer it as one
might offer his father’s ashes
to the wind, a gesture
when there’s nothing else to do.
Still, I must say to you:
I hate your good reasons.
I hate the hatefulness that makes you fall
in love with death, your own included.
Perhaps you’re hating me now,
I who own my own house
and live in a country so muscular,
so smug, it thinks its terror is meant
only to mean well, and to protect.
Christ turned his singular cheek,
one man’s holiness another’s absurdity.
Like you, the rest of us obey the sting,
the surge. I’m just speaking out loud
to cancel my silence. Consider it an old impulse,
doomed to become mere words.
the first poet probably spoke to thunder
and, for a while, believed
thunder had an ear and a choice.
“The good poem illuminates its subject so that we can see it as the poet wished, and in ways he could not have anticipated. It follows that such illumination is twofold: the light of the mind, which the poet employs like a miner’s lamp, and the other light which emanates from the words on the page in conjunction with themselves, a radiance the poet caused but never can fully control.”
From Stephen Dunn’s “The Good and Not So Good” in WALKING LIGHT.