The Infirmament

By Dean Young b. 1955 Dean Young
An end is always punishment for a beginning.   
If you’re Catholic, sadness is punishment
for happiness, you become the bug you squash   
if you’re Hindu, a flinty space opens
in your head after a long night of laughter   
and wine. For waking there are dreams,   
from French poetry, English poetry,
for light fire although sometimes
fire must be punished by light
which is why psychotherapy had to be invented.   
A father may say nothing to a son for years.   
A wife may keep something small folded deep   
in her underwear drawer. Clouds come in   
resembling the terrible things we believe   
about ourselves, a rock comes loose
from a ledge, the baby just cries
and cries. Doll in a chair,
windshield wipers, staring off
into the city lights. For years
you may be unable to hear the word monkey
without a stab in the heart because
she called you that the summer she thought   
she loved you and you thought you loved   
someone else and everyone loved
your salad dressing. And the daffodils   
come up in the spring and the snow covers   
the road in winter and the water covers
the deep trenches in the sea where all the time   
the inner stuff of this earth surges up
which is how the continents are made   
and broken.

Dean Young, “The Infirmament” from First Course in Turbulence. Copyright © 1999 by Dean Young. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press,

Source: First Course in Turbulence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999)

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Poet Dean Young b. 1955

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Faith & Doubt, Religion, Relationships, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Dean  Young


Poet Dean Young was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and received his MFA from Indiana University. Recognized as one of the most energetic, influential poets writing today, his numerous collections of poetry include Strike Anywhere (1995), winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry; Skid (2002), finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Elegy on Toy Piano (2005), finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Primitive Mentor (2008), . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Faith & Doubt, Religion, Relationships, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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