By Stephen Dunn
Anyone who begins a sentence with, “In all honesty … ”
is about to tell a lie. Anyone who says, “This is how I feel”
had better love form more than disclosure. Same for anyone
who thinks he thinks well because he had a thought.
If you say, “You’re ugly” to an ugly person — no credit
for honesty, which must always be a discovery, an act
that qualifies as an achievement. If you persist
you’re just a cruel bastard, a pig without a mirror,
somebody who hasn’t examined himself enough.
A hesitation hints at an attempt to be honest, suggests
a difficulty is present. A good sentence needs
a clause or two, interruptions, set off by commas,
evidence of a slowing down, a rethinking.
Before I asked my wife to marry me, I told her
I’d never be fully honest. No one, she said,
had ever said that to her. I was trying
to be radically honest, I said, but in fact
had another motive. A claim without a “but” in it
is, at best, only half true. In all honesty,
I was asking in advance to be forgiven.
More By This Poet
Always Something More Beautiful
This time I came to the starting place
with my best running shoes, and pure speed
held back for the finish, came with only love
of the clock and the underfooting
and the other runners. Each of us would
be testing excellence and endurance
In Love, His Grammar Grew
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....
More Poems about Arts & Sciences
The Racist Bone
I know this is a real thing, because
When I was a kid, my big sister took me
To the Capitol Theater, in my hometown
Of Rochester, NY,
And there was a movie that afternoon,
The Tingler, which starred Vincent Price,
And what I remember best...
The Last Word
I am a door of metaphor
waiting to be opened.
You’ll find no lock, no key.
All are free to enter, at will.
Simply step over the threshold.
Remember to dress for travel, though.
Visitors have been known
to get carried away.Illustration by Shadra Strickland
More Poems about Living
if time is queer/and memory is trans/and my hands hurt in the cold/then
there are ways to hold pain like night follows day
not knowing how tomorrow went down.
it hurts like never when the always is now,
the now that time won't allow.
there is no manner of tomorrow, nor shape of today
only like always having...
Here’s an Ocean Tale
My brother still bites his nails to the quick,
but lately he’s been allowing them to grow.
So much hurt is forgotten with the horizon
as backdrop. It comes down to simple math.
The beach belongs to none of us, regardless
of color, or money....
More Poems about Love
I’d like to be a shrine, so I can learn from peoples’ prayers the story of hearts. I’d like to be a scarf so I can place it over my hair and understand other worlds. I’d like to be the...
the world is about to end and my grandparents are in love
still, living like they orbit one another,
my grandfather, the planet, & grandma, his moon assigned
by some gravitational pull. they have loved long enough
for a working man to retire. grandma says she’s not tired,