By Stephen Dunn

Featured art: Self-Agency by Bailey Wiseman

Found dead in an alley
of words: awesome,
no hope for it, and share,
which must have fallen
trying to get by on its own,
and near trash cans,
almost totally exhausted,
the barely breathing cool.

But there’s love
among the disposables,
waiting, as ever,
to be lifted
into consequence.

And here comes a forager
looking for anything
that might get him
through another night.
Love’s right in front
of him, is if he wants it.

In the air
the ashy smell of clichés,
the stink of obsolescence.
He’s leaning love’s way.

All the words are watching,
even the dead ones. It’s as if
What he does next
could be the equivalent
of restoring awe to awesome—

that love if chosen
might be given back to love,
made new again.

But the man is just a man
out for easy pickings.
Or has he remembered
how, at first, love
always feels original?

Let us forgive him
if he keeps on foraging.

Stephen Dunn is the author of fifteen collections of poetry, including What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009. His Different Hours was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2001. In 2009 he received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement. He died in 2021

Originally published in NOR 8

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