Jun. 24, 2005


by Stephen Dunn

FRIDAY, 24 JUNE, 2005
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Poem: "Desire" by Stephen Dunn from. New and Selected Poems 1974–1994. © W.W. Norton, 1994. Reprinted with permission.


I remember how it used to be
at noon, springtime, the city streets
full of office workers like myself
let loose from the cold
glass buildings on Park and Lex,
the dull swaddling of winter cast off,
almost everyone wanting
everyone else. It was amazing
how most of us contained ourselves,
bringing desire back up
to the office where it existed anyway,
quiet, like a good engine.
I'd linger a bit
with the receptionist,
knock on someone else's open door,
ease myself, by increments,
into the seriousness they paid me for.
Desire was everywhere those years,
so enormous it couldn't be reduced
one person at a time.
I don't remember when it was,
though closer to now than then,
I walked the streets desireless,
my eyes fixed on destination alone.
The beautiful person across from me
on the bus or train
looked like effort, work.
I translated her into pain.
For months I had the clarity
the cynical survive with,
their world so safely small.
Today, walking 57th toward 3rd,
it's all come back,
the interesting, the various,
the conjured life suggested by a glance.
I praise how the body heals itself.
I praise how, finally, it never learns.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Ambrose Bierce, born in 1842 in Meigs County, Ohio. He is best known to us for his Devil's Dictionary, a book of ironic definitions:

"Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited."
"Bride: A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her."

It's the birthday of the poet Stephen Dunn, born in Forest Hills, New York (1939). He's the author of more than ten books of poetry, including Different Hours which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. His collection Local Visitations came out a couple years ago.

His first love was basketball. He was a star on the 1962 Hofstra basketball team that went 25 and 1 that year. Stephen Dunn was nicknamed "Radar" for his accurate jump shot.

He found a job writing brochures for Nabisco and worked for them for seven years. He made a comfortable living. He didn't enjoy his work too much, so he quit, and moved to Spain with his wife. They lived for almost a year on $2,200. He wrote a novel and then began writing poetry. He came out with his first collection in 1974, Looking for Holes in the Ceiling.

And it was on this day in 1997, the Pentagon tried to end the speculation that the United States had intercepted a wrecked alien spacecraft along with alien bodies 50 years ago in Roswell, New Mexico.

There had been a lot of reports of UFOs during the summer of 1947, and during this flying saucer craze, a man in Roswell found debris on his ranch from something that had crashed—and the Air Force came to clean it up.

Newspapers around the world picked up the story. The government later said the object found had been a weather balloon, but UFO enthusiasts thought it was an alien invasion, and the government was trying to cover it up. At a press briefing in 1997, the Pentagon said the bodies found in Roswell had been test dummies and not aliens. Many enthusiasts still beleive that that press briefing, too, was part of the cover-up.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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