September 03, 2011


by Stephen Dunn

My friend the pessimist thinks I'm optimistic
because I seem to believe in the next good thing.
But I see rueful shadows almost everywhere.
When the sun rises I think of collisions and AK-47s.
It's my mother's fault, who praised and loved me,
sent me into the dreadful world as if
it would tell me a story I'd understand. The fact is
optimism is the enemy of happiness.
I've learned to live for the next good thing
because lifelong friends write good-bye letters,
because regret follows every timidity.
I'm glad I know that all great romances are fleshed
with failure. I'll take a day of bitterness and rain
to placate the gods, to get it over with.
My mother told me I could be a great pianist
because I had long fingers. My fingers are small.
It's my mother's fault, every undeserved sweetness.

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