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Stephen Dunn - The Routine Things Around The House

When Mother died
I thought: now I'll have a death poem.
That was unforgivable.

Yet I've since forgiven myself
as sons are able to do
who've been loved by their mothers.

I stared into the coffin
knowing how long she'd live,
how many lifetimes there are

in the sweet revisions of memory.
It's hard to know exactly
how we ease ourselves back from sadness,

but I remembered when I was twelve, 
1951, before the world
unbuttoned its blouse.

I had asked my mother (I was trembling)
If I could see her breasts
and she took me into her room

without embarrassment or coyness
and I stared at them,
afraid to ask for more.

Now, years later, someone tells me
Cancers who've never had mother love
are doomed and I, a Cancer

feel blessed again. What luck
to have had a mother
who showed me her breasts

when girls my age were developing
their separate countries,
what luck

she didn't doom me
with too much or too little.
Had I asked to touch,

Perhaps to suck them,
What would she have done?
Mother, dead woman

Who I think permits me
to love women easily
this poem

is dedicated to where
we stopped, to the incompleteness
that was sufficient

and to how you buttoned up,
began doing the routine things
around the house.

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Added: Feb 20 2003 | Viewed: 5512 times | Comments and analysis of The Routine Things Around The House by Stephen Dunn Comments (5)

The Routine Things Around The House - Comments and Information

Poet: Stephen Dunn
Poem: The Routine Things Around The House
Volume: Stephen Dunn -- New and Selected Poems 1974 - 1994
Poem of the Day: Feb 13 2011

Comment 5 of 5, added on April 13th, 2014 at 3:23 AM.
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Angel from Dominican Republic
Comment 4 of 5, added on June 26th, 2007 at 10:56 AM.

The way you structured your sentence, Coleen, you make it sound like Dunn's mother exposed her breasts after she died. I guess you meant to say Dunn revealed, after his mother's death, the fact that his mother had exposed herself to him. Revise your sentences before you go pointing fingers. By the way, Stephen Dunn is a fantastic poet.

Daniel from United States
Comment 3 of 5, added on August 2nd, 2005 at 2:33 PM.

This poem is spectacular, and rather than blaspheming her name, I think he exalts his mother and her candidness at sharing the really tough things to share, without shame or diapproval. "(she)permits me to love women easily", shows the poets gratitude towards his passed mother.

Michael from United States

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