to be alive

wisdom

Sweetness
 by 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.
 
“Sweetness” from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994 by Stephen Dunn. Copyright © 1994 by Stephen Dunn. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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