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By Stephen Dunn

In love, his grammar grew

rich with intensifiers, and adverbs fell

madly from the sky like pheasants

for the peasantry, and he, as sated

as they were, lolled under shade trees

until roused by moonlight

and the beautiful fraternal twins

and and but. Oh that was when

he knew he couldn’t resist

a conjunction of any kind.

One said accumulate, the other

was a doubter who loved the wind

and the mind that cleans up after it.

                                           For love

he wanted to break all the rules,

light a candle behind a sentence

named Sheila, always running on

and wishing to be stopped

by the hard button of a period.

Sometimes, in desperation, he’d look

toward a mannequin or a window dresser

with a penchant for parsing.

But mostly he wanted you, Sheila,

and the adjectives that could precede

and change you: bluesy, fly-by-night,

queen of all that is and might be.


Source: Poetry (January 2012)

Poet Bio

Stephen Dunn came into national prominence when his eleventh book, Different Hours, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Born in Forest Hills, New York, Dunn took a degree from Hofstra University in History and English in 1962 and was a key player on the school’s greatest-ever basketball team; he later earned a MA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. His accessible work conveys its insights through quiet reflections on everyday events and central human dilemmas.

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