Sleeping with Others

May 13, 2007 at 11:46 am 1 comment

Stephen Dunn


Because memory and its intrusive nostalgias
lie down with us,
it helps to say we love each other,

each declaration a small erasure, the past
for a while reduced to a trace,
the heart’s palimpsest to a murmur.

Still, our solitudes are so populated
that sometimes after sex
we know it’s best to be quiet –

time having instructed us in the art
of the unspoken,
of in the sufficient eloquence

of certain sighs. Regret shows up
sleeping with, but never between us.

Like joy it doesn’t stay long, quickly tiring
of the language
used in its name, wanting only itself.

We’ve made this bed. We’re old enough
to know sorrow may visit
now and then, and that the world slides in

at will – ugly, dark, confident it belongs.
Nothing to do but let it
touch us, allow it to hurt, and remind.

An exquisite poem about the erosion of passion, about the way desire is rubbed smooth by memory. About the way old loves accumulate in the heart, making it heavy, until each new advance is a footstep sinking into loose sand. About bedrooms filled with intimate ghosts, and the impossibility of moving on from what has touched us most deeply, what we hold most near.

I love “it helps to say we love each other” and the “sufficient eloquence of certain sighs”. But more than that I love the tone of the poem – the way Dunn pulls off the perfect balance between weariness and regret and tenderness.


Entry filed under: English, Falstaff, Stephen Dunn.

With A Green Scarf Instead of a farewell

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. cliff  |  June 6, 2007 at 6:08 am

    your graceful comments about the poem are perhaps as exquisite as the poem itself.


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