24 November 2013
I’ve been lost in the late afternoon. Your post from the other day reminded me of Stephen Dunn’s poem about 4pm, so here it is.
I was tired, so I went out to IKEA and bought four more chairs for Thanksgiving this week, and a new set of desk drawers.
My back hurt, so I walked through the Christmas Fair on Princes Street.
I was ready for the day to finish, so I cleaned out my desk and organized papers and got work done.
I was lonely, so I made lunch and invited people over.
I thought there wasn’t enough time in the day, so I read to expand my mind.
The excuses I will no longer accept: anything less than the truth.
I love the way he prefaces this poem before he starts it at a reading: “I was going to ask you: do you have a time in the day when you get in the most trouble? It’s getting close to the time when I get in the most trouble. It’s usually around 4. This poem, uh… well, you’ll see…” (you can listen here).
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.