“The Crossing” by Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn


You will soon be crossing the great waters,
the captain said, and there was a broken violin
behind him, and a harp that played by itself.
You will soon be crossing the great waters,
he repeated, and it will forever be too late
no matter what time it is.
This followed by a familiar hush of importance.
I was both the dreamer and director of a dream,
that much was clear, and I was the captain too.
I felt no fear. In the distance a stage-set sea.
When the captain said, Self-consciousness
is your life raft, you must leave it behind,
I suddenly wanted to protest but couldn’t
form the words, my mouth a cartoon
of a mouth agape, frozen in impotence,
a bubble of silence issuing from it.
Then we were setting out, the captain
and I, into the vast expanse on a windless day,
every scud in the sky a face from my past,
and all around sharks with their broad smiles.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002


Stephen Dunn: “The poetry that ends up mattering speaks to things we half-know but are inarticulate about. It gives us language and the music of language for what we didn’t know we knew. So a combination of insight and beauty. I also liken the writing of it to basketball—you discover that you can be better than yourself for a little while. If you’re writing a good poem, it means you’re discovering things that you didn’t know you knew. In basketball, if you’re hitting your shots, you feel in the realm of the magical.” (web)

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