“Sweetness” by Stephen Dunn (repost)

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet.

Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief

until we were speaking only in tones.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care

where it’s been, or what bitter road
it’s traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

“Sweetness” by Stephen Dunn from New and Selected Poems. © Norton, 1994.

*originally shared on December 4, 2015

6 thoughts on ““Sweetness” by Stephen Dunn (repost)

  1. jean mckay

    Hi, Christina,
    Thank You for this.
    I’ve always thought Stephen Dunn’ poetry was special in a sweet way. (I’m sure I haven’t read all of his works, though.)
    But there’s one – I think called “The kiss” – about his wife – that just knocked my socks off!
    Such tenderness.
    Jean McKay

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh I don’t think I know that one, Jean, thank you! I haven’t read much Dunn, but all that I’ve read I really love. I’ll definitely look up The Kiss (that name always makes me think of the Gustav Klimt painting)
      Happy May! xo


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