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Category archive for: Dean Young

Commencement Address

I love you for shattering.

Someone has to. Just as someone

has to announce inadvertently

the end of grief or spring’s

splurge even as the bureaucrat’s

spittoon overflows. Someone has to come out

the other end of the labyrinth

saying, What’s the big deal?

Someone has to spend all day staring

at the data from outer space

or separating the receipts

or changing the sheets in sour room after room.

I like it when the end of the toilet paper

is folded into a point.

I like napkins folded into swans

because I like wiping my mouth on swans.

Matriculates, come back from the dance floor

to sip at the lachrymal glands of chaos,

a god could be forgiven

for eating you, you’ve been such angels

just not very good ones.

You’ve put your tongue

into the peanut canister

of your best friend’s girlfriend’s mom.

You’ve taken a brown bag lunch

on which was writ a name not your own.

All night it snows a blue snow

like the crystallized confessions

you’ve wrung from phantoms

even though it’s you wearing the filched necklace,

your rages splitting the concrete like dandelions.

All that destruction from a ball of fluff!

There’s nothing left but hope.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Irrevocable Ode

When you finally admit you’re broken,

Can I come back up now? asks the chair

with its leg snapped in the basement

and Don’t even get me started, says the sky.

After a while what always spun can’t

without a raw rasp. Exhausted with tears

and rage, the couple look at each other,

shrug, half a face almost smiling.

Smiling the mechanic coming toward us,

wiping his greasy hands on a greasier rag,

shaking his head. Not no exactly, no

inexactly and one year the waxwings

don’t appear where they always have.

You knock and knock at a door, it won’t

open anymore, the paint blisters and peels

and that too you’ll learn is beautiful.

When Rikyū gave his richest patron

a crude clay teapot, it had already

been broken twice. The knee never heals

and when it rains…. The wife can’t forget

what the husband drunkenly raved,

the diamond cutter his miscalculations,

the contractor thinks if only a few hundred

more rivets, just a couple more thou….

If only I hadn’t trusted or trusted

sooner, if I hadn’t tried to pass on the hill.

Broken vow, broken silence with a coyote’s howl.

And you who didn’t get your cat to the vet

in time, who dozed, who messed up

your sister’s wedding yelling at your mom,

who made a friend cry as a joke, jammed

the disposal with the antique, pearl-handled

spoon, who let someone else take the blame,

spiller of red wine on white rugs,

breaker of others’ bones, parachuter,

big talker, lover of fire, dumb creature

of ice, maybe you won’t be forgiven,

maybe you’ll never find all your pieces,

a new home, maybe you’ll search and petition

and wander until you’re heard from no more.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Delphiniums in a Window Box

Every sunrise, sometimes strangers’ eyes.

Not necessarily swans, even crows,

even the evening fusillade of bats.

That place where the creek goes underground,

how many weeks before I see you again?

Stacks of books, every page, character’s

rage and poet’s strange contraption

of syntax and song, every song

even when there isn’t one.

Every thistle, splinter, butterfly

over the drainage ditches. Every stray.

Did you see the meteor shower?

Every question, conversation

even with almost nothing, cricket, cloud,

because of you I’m talking to crickets, clouds,

confiding in a cat. Everyone says

Come to your senses, and I do, of you.

Every touch electric, every taste you,

every smell, even burning sugar, every

cry and laugh. Toothpicked samples

at the farmer’s market, every melon,

plum, I come undone, undone.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Scarecrow on Fire

Everything is brushed away, off the sleeve,

off the overcoat, huge ensembles of assertions

just jars of buttons spilled, recurring

nightmare of straw on fire, you the scarecrow,

the scare, the crow, totems gone, rubies

flawed, flamingo in hyena’s jaws, noble

and lascivious mouth of the gods hovering

then gone, gone the glances, gone moths,

cities of crystal become cities of mud,

centurion and emperor dust, the flower girl,

some of it rises, proof? some of it explodes,

vein in the brain, seedpod poof, maybe

something will grow, another predicament

of bittersweet, dreamfluff milkweed,

declarations of aerosols, vows just sprays

of spit fast evaporate, all of it pulverized

as it hits the seawall, all of it falling snow

on water, flash of flying fish, breach and blow

and sinking, far below creatures of luminous jelly

constellated and darting and baiting each other

like last thoughts before sleep, last neural

sparks coalescing as a face in the dark,

who was she? never enough time to know.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Another Strange Rose for the Afterlife

Broken river, you’re not broken after all,

you just dropped your wineglass.

Tattered sky, you’re only raining,

get used to it. Not even the brown laurel

is dead, not even the dry things the rushes said

or the little spinning creature, pivot

its smashed innards. Maybe we start out rising

and stay that way, two people really one

shadow in the advancing day, trying

to take the guesswork out of rapture,

hostages of we know not what,

perhaps ourselves or the more perfect other

never seen whose meddling is hardly felt

except as twilight’s paw upon one’s shoulder

gently prodding us away from each other,

away from the fire toward that clarifying

dark, free as sleep from desire, subject, theme.

But some call remains suspended back there

still rich with ambiguity as a cry of love

sounds like pain and vice versa, both

of which came from you and you caused.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Three Weeks from Two Days Ago

Waiting is the moon, waiting the groom

in the little boy. The red minute waits

in the white afternoon, the dream in the daylit

consciousness. Is god what’s waiting

to hear back, we the message sent out

into the void? You wait for something to appear

but in most cases the opposite is true,

wait long enough it’s all gone, the year’s

preparatory nubs on the weeping pussy willow,

pregnant woman in the airport taxi queue

reading a book of names. Alphabet

to be rearranged into the spelling of your name

just as you rearranged me so I thought

let’s have lunch in a tree, winter already

spring, bells to drink champagne from.

I couldn’t wait to see you again

so tried to warp space-time

with sexual energy alone, what a joke,

especially over the phone, sorry.

Slower the shorter days go, the pool

closed a month ago, goldfinches gone

from the coneflowers, coneflowers

brown bent low, hardly any need to mow,

it’s cold, it snows, just a few crab apples

left on the bare tree to ferment so spring

returning waxwings can get drunk enough

to almost touch as I am almost touching you

not wanting to wait.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Opal

It’s not that Monet cared that much about stacks of hay.

Your feelings will never change, you’ll just stop paying so much attention.

A whole summer’s songs go by, the whole house turns blue.

A friend will need some help carrying boxes to the curb.

So slowly you’ll reach into the pond’s reflection of your own face—as if reaching into your face!—the tiny fishes will brush your fingers like nerves made of water.

Someone else will have to be young enough to climb the scaffolding around the town hall to derange all four of its clock faces.

The same laughter will have to work the rest of your life.

A friend takes your arm in the woods, it’s darker turning back.

You point at an opal in a glass case and the person behind it is only too glad to let you see it against your skin but it’s someone else’s skin you want.

You didn’t get everything but you got a lot.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Late Valentine

We weren’t exactly children again,

too many divorces, too many blood panels,

but your leaning into me was a sleeping bird.

Sure, there was no way to be careful enough,

even lightning can go wrong but when the smoke

blows off, we can admire the work the fire’s done

ironing out the wrinkles in favor of newer ones,

ashy furrows like the folds in the brain

that signal the switchbacks and reversals

of our thought and just as brief. Your lips

were song, your hair everywhere.

Oh unknowable, fidgeting self, how little

bother you were then, no more

than a tangerine rind. Oh unknowable

other, how I loved your smell.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

The Usual Decision-Making Process

All day I gather signs: my scars shine,

a rope ladder hangs from a bolted window,

in the corner store a shimmering robe

drapes a headless, hollow monster

and I still think of your body.

On my table a ladybug searches

for someplace to cram herself

like a note she didn’t want to know

she’d written. It only gets dark

half the sky at a time. An hour later,

my watch, glowing, hasn’t moved.

Earlier, I think, the river showed me

places to disappear but it was fooling itself,

the river wasn’t going anywhere. Impossible

to cut out your own heart but if you do,

maybe you’ll grow another.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Elemental

The night doesn’t summarize the day.

The spark has its say over the fire.

Dearheart, why are you crying?

Already you’re in the air.

Quiet doesn’t summarize the song

which can’t go on for long,

song found inside us feral and hot.

Dearheart, why are you crying?

We’re sparks.

Walked into the burning woods and burning

walked into me. One day we’ll wade

into the sea and see. You’re coming

won’t summarize your leaving

nor waking sleep, sleep our dreams,

fireflies over wet grass, ice

settling in an abandoned glass. Winter

can’t summarize that summer, your body

in my hands won’t summarized be

by your body far from me.

Already you’re in the air

and my hands are nowhere,

my dreams mostly water.

This end won’t summarize our forever.

Some things can be fixed by fire,

some not. Dearheart, already we’re air.

from Fall HigherFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Dean Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.