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Salvation by Stephen Dunn

Working on my poems today. Writing letters. Looking up the ceiling. Left foot tapping along with Charlie Parker.

I am holding this close to my heart:

Here, as in the other poems, there is the question of forgiveness. I’m curious about where forgiveness falls in your treatment of your own poetry (the people in your poems, your sympathy for the speaker, your process as the author).

Interesting. I’ve just written a poem called “Forgiveness: A Colloquy.” Forgiveness is a subject that has long fascinated me, perhaps because how many times over the years I’ve needed to be forgiven, perhaps because of Dostoyevsky’s compelling notion that it’s harder to allow yourself to be forgiven than to forgive. In one case, you have to admit to yourself and the other that you’ve been awful. The forgiver, on the other hand, is left feeling good about himself, as the charitable do.

This, too:

Stephen Dunn

Finally, I gave up on obeisance,
and refused to welcome
either retribution or the tease

of sunny days. As for the can’t-be-
seen, the sum-of-all-details,
the One—oh, when it came

to salvation I was only sure
I needed to be spared
someone else’s version of it.

The small prayers I devised
had in them the hard sounds
of split and frost.

I wanted them to speak
as if it made sense to speak
to what isn’t there

in the beaconless dark.
I wanted them to startle
by how little they asked.

From Poetry magazine, published on November 2005.

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