I Am But a Traveler in This Land & Know Little of Its Ways

By Dean Young b. 1955 Dean Young
Is everything a field of energy caused
by human projection? From the crib bars
hang the teething tools. Above the finger-drummed   
desk, a bit lip. The cyclone fence of buts

surrounds the soccer field of what if.
Sometimes it seems like a world where no one   
knows what he or she is doing, eight lanes   
both directions. How about a polymer

that contracts in response to electrical
charge? A swimming pool on the 18th floor?   
King Lear done by sock puppets? Anyone
who has traveled here knows the discrepancies

between idea and fact. The idea is the worm   
in the tequila and the next day is the fact.   
In between may be the sacred—real blood   
from the wooden virgin’s eyes, and the hoax—

landing sites in cornfields. Maybe ideas
are best sprung from actions like the children   
of Zeus. One gives us elastic and the omelette,   
another nightmares and SUVs. There’s considerable

wobble in the system, and the fan belt screams,   
waking the baby. Swaying in the darkened   
nursery, kissing the baby-smelling head:   
good idea! But also sadness looking at the sea.

The stranded whale, guided out of the cove   
by tugboats, turns and swims back in.   
The violinist will not let go her violin   
which is 200 years old and still on the train

thus she is dragged down the track. By what
manner is the soul joined to the body?   
Answer: an arm connecting a violin
to a violinist. According to Freud,

there are no accidents. Astrologists
and Presbyterians agree for different reasons.   
You fall down the stairs with a birthday cake.   
You try to fit a blunderbuss into a laptop.

Human consciousness: is it the projector
or the screen? They come in orange jumpsuits   
and spray the grass so everything dies
but the grass. It is too late to ask Kafka

what he thinks. Sometimes they give you   
a box of ash, a handshake, and the rest   
is your problem. In one version,
the beggar turns out to be a king and grants

the poor couple a castle and a moat and two   
silver horses said to be sired by the wind.
That was before dentistry, which might have been   
a better gift. You did not want to get sick   
in the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th or 18th centuries.

So too the 19th and 20th were to be avoided
but the doctor coming to bleed you is the master   
of the short story. After the kiss from whom   
he will never know, the lieutenant, going home,

touches a bush in which birds are singing.

Dean Young, “I Am But a Traveler In This Land & Know Little of Its Ways” from Skid. Copyright © 2002 by Dean Young. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press, www.pitt.edu/~press/.

Source: Skid (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002)

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Poet Dean Young b. 1955

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Nature, Arts & Sciences, The Body

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

 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 Nature, Arts & Sciences, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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