THE PROBLEM

STEPHEN DUNN

First, out of the scraps of dreams,
and later out of the clashing loyalties
of belief and skepticism,
he believed he could live
a thoughtful, occasionally principled life.
If he couldn’t be a man for all seasons,
certainly he could be a man for some,
say winter one year, the next perhaps
some amalgam of spring and autumn.
The problem was that desire
had no season, was as present
when icicles dangled from the eaves
as when hydrangea blossomed
and something less than love
felt irresistible in elevators and back seats.
Just yesterday at the museum
he imagined one of de Kooning’s
fierce women stepping out
of her painting to urge Vermeer girls
to reveal their secret angers,
give up their chaste bonnets,
and scream. He imagined Jackson
Pollock wanting to bathe with one
of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
That’s how he walked the venerable
halls, his five senses wishing a sixth
as he went. And when he left, the streets
seemed full of desire, beyond all
equivalences, beyond anything that could be
controlled. Sometimes in the morning paper,
he’d read that the stars
and his birth month were happily aligned.
Sometimes they wouldn’t be. Sometimes
there was nothing to do but declare
what he wanted, and live with the consequences.

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