Beyond Hammonton

By Stephen Dunn b. 1939 Stephen Dunn

Night is longing, longing, longing,
beyond all endurance.
—Henry Miller

The back roads I’ve traveled late   
at night, alone, a little drunk,   
wishing I were someone
on whom nothing is lost,

are the roads by day I take
to the car wash in Hammonton   
or to Blue Anchor’s
lawnmower repair shop
when the self-propel mechanism goes.

Fascinating how the lamplight   
that’s beckoned
from solitary windows
gives way to white shutters
and occasionally a woman
in her yard, bending over
something conspicuously in bloom.

So much then is duty, duty, duty,   
and so much
with the sun visor tilted
and destination known
can be endured.

But at night . . . no, even at night   
so much can be endured.

I’ve known only one man   
who left the road,
followed an intriguing light   
to its source.
He told me
that he knocked many times   
before it became clear to him   
he must break down the door.

Stephen Dunn, "Beyond Hammonton" from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994. Copyright © 1989 by Stephen Dunn.  Used by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: New & Selected Poems (1994)

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Poet Stephen Dunn b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Time & Brevity, Activities, Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Epigram, Free Verse

 Stephen  Dunn


Poet Stephen Dunn was born in 1939 in New York City. The first of his family to go to college, Dunn attended Hofstra University on a basketball scholarship and later worked in advertising. In an interview with Poets and Writers, Dunn discussed the leap from being an ad-man to poet: “My first job out of college was writing in-house brochures for Nabisco in New York, and I kept getting promoted. I was in danger, literally, of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Activities, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Epigram, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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