The Sunday Poem: Stephen Dunn






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.

If you enjoyed “Quieter” please share this poem on Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can read the entire Sunday Poem series here.

Would you like the Sunday Poem delivered to your email box each week? Subscribe to Gwarlingo by email. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook or share a “like” on the Gwarlingo Facebook page.

“Quieter” © Stephen Dunn. This poem originally appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of The Georgia Review and was reprinted with permission by the author.

By | 2016-11-11T21:55:20+00:00 10.15.11|The Sunday Poem, Words|1 Comment

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.

One Comment

  1. Tammy October 16, 2011 at 4:22 am

    Perhaps it’s because it’s 4:19 a.m. and everything around me has the dark stillness of night yet. Or maybe it’s because I know Saratoga and Halfmoon and the Northway. More likely, it’s because Dunn’s direct, plain language so beautifully capture a state I recognize, a mood I recall after passings in my own family. I read the poem, refreshed my coffee, came back and read it twice more. I could feel it. Thanks, Stephen and Michelle, for a start to my day that seems somehow so very right.

Comments are closed.