Stephen Dunn

My friends, the worriers, make themselves miserable,

I suppose, in preparation for the misery to come.

They must be practicing for the time lightning will destroy

their houses, or for when their spouses die

on that famous fog-plagued strip of road. Bird flu

and if their hotel room will be too close to the ice machine

often begin to live side by side in their minds.

They can’t help it, they say, these servants of catastrophe,

often adding that I seem to suffer from underworry,

which causes them to worry for and about me the more.

And so, since worry always trumps the absence of worry,

to live with them is to live on their terms. Don’t worry

I’ve learned not to say, which is other-planetary language

to them, cold, unsympathetic, the language of someone

whole wouldn’t help them build a bomb shelter

after they’d seen the end of the world in a dream.

Try to be reasonable, is the button that triggers the bomb.

I try to love them for their other qualities,

like being right about most other things, or how good

they are in the kitchen or the workplace or the bed.

But if not for my sake, then for their own, shouldn’t

they worry less, or at least privately? Every once in a while

shouldn’t they say, Forgive me my worries?

But a semi is always running a stop sign, one of the big

hemlocks topples in a storm. Then they point to the world

news. What’s wrong with you, they want to know.

Don’t you know what’s out there? A failure of imagination,

they say. A man who’s a clear danger to himself.

Found In Volume 36, No. 04
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Stephen Dunn
About the Author

Stephen Dunn is the author of 17 collections of poetry, including Different Hours, which won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book is Lines of Defense (W.W.Norton, 2013).