The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Stephen Dunn

Call Them All In

            Flowers will never grow
            in places where we are right.

                           --Yehuda Amichai


Call in a Socrates from the streets

to probe and test and resist


so we might learn what's keepable

by knowing what can't be kept.


Call him in, the smart bastard.

I'm sure there must be minds

open enough to be lit anew,


yet I'm thinking there must be others

who might worry almost intelligently


that things can grow

out of certain certainties. Call in

a sophist then, someone like myself,


who'd maintain for as long

as he could that he was right, too.

Some truths are better than others,


which means, of course, some are worse.

Seems time to call in from the vast nowhere

some great adjudicator, some poet


who will arrive to hear both sides.

I have no agenda, he lies,


and proceeds to ask,

How many dead flowers

is anyone's certainty worth to him?


I've already closed my mind,

and, before he goes on, I say I'd sacrifice

not one flower but an entire garden


for what I think I know – a statement

outrageous, gut-driven, pure sophistry,

without proof, beyond proving.




STEPHEN DUNN is the author of many books, including Different Hours (Norton), winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Sarabande Books recently brought out his chapbook Keeper of Limits: The Mrs. Cavendish Poems. Norton will publish his new collection Whereas in early 2017, in which the above poem is included.



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