After grandmother’s funeral, I rode home
in a black limo built to hide faces like mine,
and to schlep the famous to their galas,
or high rollers to their ruin. Next day,
in my little Toyota, I headed north to price
the cost of forgetfulness at Saratoga,
and give myself permission to scream.
The nags I bet on that afternoon permitted
only mutterings, though in the last race
twenty-to-one Big Cat came from behind,
majestically lengthening its stride. “Oh no,”
I said to myself, as it passed my horse by.
All day long early speed had given way
to what came late and hard. Wisdom
would have had me a Big Cat man,
but if I were wise I’d have been elsewhere.
I left, wearing my gambler’s this-is-what-
happens smile, and beat traffic to the Northway,
the car reverberating with a mindlessness
of my choice, music at full blast.
But at Halfmoon in search of cheap gas
and something cold, I pulled in to a Stop
‘n’ Shop and just sat there
behind the wheel, a sudden quiet in the air,
a quiet I hadn’t known I’d been staving off.
It was as if a careless wind
had finally died down, the only evidence
of its existence what it had swept away.
No, it was quieter than that, just an undertone
of all I’d left unsaid. I apologize in advance
to those I love. I still need to go some distance
to locate what I feel, to total what I’ve lost.
About Stephen Dunn
Stephen Dunn is the author of 16 books of poetry, including the recent Here and Now (Norton, 2011) and What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009 (Norton, 2010). His Different Hours was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2001, and his many other awards include the Paterson Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement, fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Frostburg, Maryland, with his wife, the writer Barbara Hurd.
To read more about Stephen Dunn and his work, you can visit his website.
“Quieter” © Stephen Dunn. This poem originally appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of The Georgia Review and was reprinted with permission by the author.