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Poetry in the Archives

Dunn and Dogs

Dunn's "Bad" in Here and Now Manuscript (1 of 2)

"Bad" by Stephen Dunn (1 of 2) from Here and Now manuscript 


"Bad" (2 of 2)

Bad (part 2)


My wife is working in her room, 

writing, and I've come in three times
with idle chatter, some no-new news.
The fourth time she identifies me
as what I am, a man lost
in late afternoon, in the terrible
in between - good work long over,
a good drink not yet
what the clock has okayed.
Her mood: a little bemused —
mixed with a weary smile,
and I see my face
up on the Post Office wall
among Men Least Wanted,
looking forlorn. In the small print
under my name: Annoying
to loved ones in the afternoons,
lacks inner resources.
I go away, guilty as charged,
and write this poem, which I insist
she read at drinking time.
She's reading it now. It seems
she's pleased, but when she speaks
it's about charm, and how predictable
I am - how, when in trouble
I try to become irresistible
like one of those blond dogs
with a red bandanna around his neck,
sorry he's peed on the rug.
Forget it, she says, this stuff
is old, it won't work anymore,
and I hear Good boy, Good boy,
and can't stop licking her hand.

"Don't Do That" (1 of 2)

Dunn's "Dont Do That" (1 of 2)

Stephen Dunn's "Don't Do That" in Here and Now manuscript (2 of 2)

"Don't Do That" (2 of 2)
Notice the markings.  It is interesting to observe the notes and changes made before publication.  It was so exciting having access to Hofstra's Dunn Archive!

Don't Do That

It was bring-your-own if you wanted anything
hard, so I brought Johnnie Walker Red
along with some resentment I’d held in
for a few weeks, which was not helped
by the sight of little nameless things
pierced with toothpicks on the tables,
or by talk that promised to be nothing
if not small. But I’d consented to come,
and I knew what part of the house
their animals would be sequestered,
whose company I loved. What else can I say,

except that old retainer of slights and wrongs,
that bad boy I hadn’t quite outgrown—
I’d brought him along, too. I was out
to cultivate a mood. My hosts greeted me,
but did not ask about my soul, which was when
I was invited by Johnnie Walker Red 
to find the right kind of glass, and pour.
I toasted the air. I said hello to the wall,
then walked past a group of women
dressed to be seen, undressing them
one by one, and went up the stairs to where 

the Rottweilers were, Rosie and Tom,
and got down with them on all fours.
They licked the face I offered them,
and I proceeded to slick back my hair
with their saliva, and before long
I felt like a wild thing, ready to mess up
the party, scarf the hors d’oeuvres.
But the dogs said, No, don’t do that, 
calm down, after a while they open the door 
and let you out, they pet your head, and everything
you might have held against them is gone,
and you’re good friends again. Stay, they said.

*transcribed from Here and Now Manuscript, Hofstra Special Collections, Dunn Archive, Box 11, Folder 3