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480: Sweetness

Stephen Dunn

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.

I was accepted into a scholarship program to go to Kirov, Russia for seven weeks this summer for intensive language study. I am so excited.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2009 03:01 am (UTC)
Stephen Dunn is amazing. congrats!
Apr. 24th, 2009 03:01 am (UTC)
This is so beautiful, and it's so true. When really terrible things have happened to me, I often feel this palpable grace that kind of makes things ok. I love the first three stanzas.

Also, congratulations!!!
Apr. 24th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
This poem was like a whisper in the ear--getting quieter and quieter with each word.

Congratulations on the language scholarship! Russian should be lovely. It's definitely on my list of languages to learn:)
Apr. 24th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)
Wonderful! Congrats to you.
Apr. 24th, 2009 04:18 am (UTC)
This is so true. Without those small sweetnesses, we would never survive.
Apr. 24th, 2009 04:35 am (UTC)
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)
oh lord, this made me cry.

congratulations on the scholarship program! i hope to go to russia next summer to study :)
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:56 am (UTC)
I am puzzling over/fascinated by the lines "one more maniac/with a perfect reason".

Congratulations that's really exciting!
Apr. 24th, 2009 08:01 am (UTC)
A murderer is a maniac with a perfect reason to kill.
Apr. 24th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
I took it to mean they know one more person who is a maniac, but with a reason, the brain tumor.

Also, to K, have a fabulous time! Russia is very pretty during the summer.
Apr. 24th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
I took it as the tumor being the maniac for some reason. Maybe that makes way more sense
Apr. 24th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC)
Congratulations, have a great summer. Is that a 'sweetness' for you?
Apr. 25th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
Yes. I'm glad you recognized the connection.
Apr. 24th, 2009 08:18 am (UTC)
Congratulations =)
To appreciate the better flavors of life is only accentuated when we realize why we see it at all, why we taste it at all. Like the too few stars in a city of light pollution; like after a lifetime of heartache, finally feeling your last first kiss. Wherever it comes from, you can't let the darkness dissuade hope. Hope is born of it. Hope opens its eyes wide, and lets us taste sweet.
Apr. 24th, 2009 02:01 pm (UTC)
Would you mind sharing the program name? I am interested in doing the same after grad school!
Apr. 25th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
The program I'm doing is the U.S. National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) which is for high school students. However, I found a critical language scholarship program (http://www.clscholarship.org/home.phpv) which is for undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students.
Apr. 24th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
This poem touched a raw nerve somewhat, considering what's been happening to the people around me - it certainly helped me to reflect. Thank you for posting this, I think I needed this.

PS. Congrats K on getting accepted!
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:03 pm (UTC)
This grabbed my heart.

"one more maniac

with a perfect reason"
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
Congratulations, K! Take lots of pictures, and have a great time :)
Apr. 24th, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
this has been one of my favorite poems since i first read it about a year ago, thanks for sharing it
Apr. 24th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
I have friends doing that program for Hindi, congratulations on being accepted!
Apr. 24th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
The poem is excellent but your Russia news is very very cool. Have you been to Russia already?
Apr. 25th, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)
No, but apparently it's beautiful. I am in my first year of Russian study though.
Apr. 24th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
This poem is terribly beautiful.

Congrats on the program!
Apr. 24th, 2009 09:44 pm (UTC)
Love this poem. Umm, I was going to pick my favorite line, but no luck. It's a beautifully balanced poem that offers up little joys at each step.

Also, Kirov -- that is majorly cool! Wow. I'm so happy for you.

And finlly, KT Tunstall = awesomeness, and Silent Sea is one of my favorities.

So you're hitting on all cyclinders today!
Apr. 25th, 2009 12:20 am (UTC)
Apr. 25th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
You are such an amazing person. Really, I'm shocked at your age. You're going to do such amazing things with your life. You already have.

Apr. 25th, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for this encouragement.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )


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