The Difference Between Us

Tonight, too long in my lazyboy,
needing a break from myself
and my worries, I walk to the kitchen
where on the refrigerator door
are instructions for how to live
in a world of danger and ambiguity:
phone numbers of the negatively capable.
Codes and passwords. A little handbook
in big letters on wrong moves
and their politics. I put them there —
obsessing, my wife says.
She’s a scientist, more worried
about invasive species than she is
about home invasion. Both of us
try hard to see the world as it is.
But for weeks I’ve been arguing
for an animal larger than a cat
to protect us, maybe even to love
one of us unconditionally.
You can be that one, I’ve said to her;
I’ll settle for long walks in the forest,
a stick brought to me after I’ve tossed it.
She’s in her favorite chair, reading
a book about tectonic plates
and how they shift. It’s all so uncertain,
she says. Unlike me, she’s happy
with a mistake that extends a possibility.
Our cat is warming himself by the wood
stove, all lassitude and privilege.
He doesn’t even kill mice.

Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn is the author of many volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is Whereas (Norton). His Different Hours was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. His second book of essays Degrees of Fidelity: Essays on Poetry and the Latitudes of the Personal, will be published by Tiger Bark Press in September, 2018.
Stephen Dunn

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Author: Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn is the author of many volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is Whereas (Norton). His Different Hours was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. His second book of essays Degrees of Fidelity: Essays on Poetry and the Latitudes of the Personal, will be published by Tiger Bark Press in September, 2018.