He’d spent his life trying to control the names
people gave him;
oh the unfair and the accurate equally hurt.
Just recently he’d been a son-of-a-bitch
and sweetheart in the same day,
and once again knew what antonyms
love and control are, and how comforting
it must be to have a business card –
Manager, Specialist – and believe what it says.
Who, in fact, didn’t want his most useful name
to enter with him,
when he entered a room, who didn’t want to be
that kind of lie? A man who was a sweetheart
and a son-of-a-bitch
was also more or less every name
he’d ever been called, and when you die, he thought,
that’s when it happens,
you’re collected forever into a few small words.
But never to have been outrageous or exquisite,
no grand mistake
so utterly yours it causes whispers
in the peripheries of your presence – that was
“Reckless”; he wouldn’t object to such a name
if it came from the right voice with the right
amount of reverence.
Someone nearby, of course, certain to add “fool.”
Born: 24 June 1939, New York, USA
Died: 24 June 2021, Maryland, USA
Dunn was a poet and educator. He authored twenty-one collections of poetry and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2001 for his collection “Different Hours.”