Stephen Dunn -- New and Selected Poems 1974 - 1994My neighbor was a biker, a pusher, a dog
and wife beater.
In bad dreams I killed himand once, in the consequential light of day,
I called the Humane Society
about Blue, his dog. They took her awayand I readied myself, a baseball bat
inside my door.
That night I hear his wife screamand I couldn't help it, that pathetic
relief; her again, not me.
It would be years before I'd understandwhy victims cling and forgive. I plugged in
the Sleep-Sound and it crashed
like the ocean all the way to sleep.One afternoon I found him
on the stoop,
a pistol in his hand, waiting,he said, for me. A sparrow had gotten in
to our common basement.
Could he have permissionto shoot it? The bullets, he explained,
might go through the floor.
I said I'd catch it, wait, give mea few minutes and, clear-eyed, brilliantly
afraid, I trapped it
with a pillow. I remember how it feltwhen I got my hand, and how it burst
that hand open
when I took it outside, a strengththat must have come out of hopelessness
and the sudden light
and the trees. And I rememberthe way he slapped the gun against
his open palm,
kept slapping it, and wouldn't speak.