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The Stories -- Stephen Dunn

Guest poem sent in by Sarah Korah
(Poem #1728) The Stories
 I was unfaithful to you last week.
 Thought I tried to be true
 to the beautiful vagaries
 of our unauthorized love,
 I told a stranger our story,
 arranging and rearranging us
 until we were orderly, reduced.
 I didn't want to sleep with this stranger.
 I wanted, I think, to see her yield,
 to sense her body's musculature,
 her history of sane resistance
 become pliable, as yours had
 twenty-two years ago.
 I told her we met in parks
 and rest stops along highways.
 Once, deep in the woods,
 a blanket over stones and dirt.
 I said that you were, finally,
 my failure of nerve,
 made to the contours of my body,
 so wrongly good for me
 I had to give you up.
 Listening to myself, it seemed
 as if I were still inconsolable,
 and I knew the seductiveness in that,
 knew when she'd try to console me
 I'd allow her the tiniest of victories.
 I told her about Laguna, the ruins
 we made of each other.
 To be undone -- I said I learned
 that's what I'd always wanted.
 We were on a train from Boston
 to New York, this stanger and I,
 the compartment to ourselves.
 I don't have to point out to you
 the erotics of such a space.
 We'd been speaking of our marriages,
 the odd triumphs of their durations.
 "Once....," I said, and my betrayal began,
 and did not end.
 She had a story, too.
 Mine seemed to coax hers out.
 There was this man she'd meet
 every workday Thursday at noon.
 For three years, every Thursday
 except Thanksgiving. She couldn't
 bear it anymore, she said,
 the lies, the coming home.
 Ended, she said.
 Happiest years of my life, she said.
 At that moment (you understand)
 we had to hug, but that's all we did.
 It hardly matters. We were in each other's
 sanctums, among the keepsakes,
 we'd gone where most sex cannot go.
 I could say that telling her our story
 was a way of bringing you back to life,
 and for a while it was, a memorial
 made of memory and its words.
 But here's what I knew:
 Watching her react, I was sure I'd tell
 our story again, to others. I understood
 how it could be taken to the bank,
 and I feared I might not ever again
 feel enough to know when to stop.
-- Stephen Dunn
I once watched in stunned silence as a girl in our bus gave the driver a
detailed account of what was going wrong in her life. It made me wince.. and
also wonder if it's somehow easier for people to reveal their innermost
thoughts and fears to absolute strangers ?

Do public dissemblers feel embarrassed later on? Does talking in public
help them gain a new perspective.. or is it merely addictive? Trust Stephen
Dunn to come up with a beautiful poem on the topic.

The day a cherished memory becomes an 'orderly, reduced' story, something
has slowly, but surely, changed..

Sarah Korah

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