Song of the Wrong Response
The poem is bare-chested, black and
shadowboxing beneath a streetlight.
In the rest of the city it is dark.
You’re out walking your dog. Nervously,
you circle the poem. It turns toward you
and speaks of a disease of the heart,
perhaps anger. You can’t make out the words.
Never have you seen a face so ugly. Then
it steps toward you and swings. You jump.
Still, it strikes you once above the heart.
On the sidewalk your dog is asleep. The poem
returns to shadowboxing. You are that exciting.
Once home, you phone the proper authorities.
Then I arrive and you describe the attack.
All next day you look at mug shots before finding
the right picture; a young man with some flowers.
This, I say, is a poem about love and
the difficulties of friendship. It is about
reaching out in dark places. The poem
touched you above the heart and you fled.
What happened in fact, you have forgotten.
What happened in memory will repeat istelf and
each time you will act falsely and be afraid.
—Stephen Dobyns, from Velocities: New and Selected Poems 1966-1992 (Penguin Books, 1994)