Stephen Dobyns

Stephen Dobyns Poems

My stepdaughter and I circle round and round.
You see, I like the music loud, the speakers
throbbing, jam-packing the room with sound whether
Bach or rock and roll, the volume cranked up so

Over a cup of coffee or sitting on a park bench or
walking the dog, he would recall some incident
from his youth—nothing significant—climbing a tree

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns

Each thing I do I rush through so I can do
something else. In such a way do the days pass—
a blend of stock car racing and the never

Pablo Neruda stands on a corner next to a poster
advertising quick weight loss diet aids when I
happen by with half my creative writing class.

At the ocean he studied the waves—how they built and broke, their
regularity and variety. It seemed meaningful, yet no meaning came to

Sometimes confusion was a veil across his eyes. Then what he loved
became suspect, what he had disliked he now despised. Colors grew
darker, sounds sharper. In his blindness, he trusted nothing and he

The clouds above the mountains of Mexico—how palpable they
were, towering expanses of particles of water, layer upon layer of
overlays of white, brighter than white as if lit from within, mountainous

Heart is lonely so he buys a bird.
He lugs the bird all over in a silver cage.

Those patches of cold air on the far side
of the barn at night or down the hill

Picking your way barefoot across the parking lot
to the beach your face contorts as your feet
press down hard on the rough points of stones—

The slick kiss of an oyster slipping
across the tongue, a woman's bare thighs
with her belly a velvet lake beneath

The day hates you and the wind has stolen
the coat from your back. Take this poem.
Unfolding it from the page, it becomes a cloak.

Heart feels the time has come to compose lyric poetry.
No more storytelling for him. Oh, Moon, Heart writes,
sad wafer of the heart's distress. And then: Oh, Moon,
bright cracker of the heart's pleasure. Which is it,

Each dance step we execute is a slap in the face
of immobility. Are you light on your feet? Do you wear
tap shoes and feel an elasticity of sole and thus


How close the clouds press this October first
and the rain—a gray scarf across the sky.
In separate hospitals my father and a dear friend

Once, taking a train into Chicago
from the west, I saw a message
scrawled on a wall in the railway yard—

Sweet dreams, sweet memories, sweet taste of earth:
here's how the dead pretend they're still alive-
one drags up a chair, a lamp, unwraps

A woman travels to Brazil for plastic
surgery and a face lift. She is sixty
and has the usual desire to stay pretty.

A great cry went up from the stockyards and
slaughterhouses, and Death, tired of complaint
and constant abuse, withdrew to his underground garage.

Stephen Dobyns Biography

Stephen J. Dobyns (born February 19, 1941) is an American poet and novelist born in Orange, New Jersey, and residing in Westerly, RI. Dobyns was born on February 19, 1941 in Orange, New Jersey to Lester L., an Episcopal minister, and Barbara Johnston Dobyns. Dobyns was raised in New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He was educated at Shimer College, transferred to and graduated from Wayne State University in 1964, and received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1967. He has worked as a reporter for the Detroit News. He has taught at various academic institutions, including Sarah Lawrence College, the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, the University of Iowa, Syracuse University, and Boston University. In 1995, as a professor of English at Syracuse University, he was involved in a sexual discrimination scandal. Francine Prose defended him by portraying his accuser and the school as having reacted to outdated neo-Victorian victim-feminism policies.)

The Best Poem Of Stephen Dobyns

Loud Music

My stepdaughter and I circle round and round.
You see, I like the music loud, the speakers
throbbing, jam-packing the room with sound whether
Bach or rock and roll, the volume cranked up so
each bass notes is like a hand smacking the gut.
But my stepdaughter disagrees. She is four
and likes the music decorous, pitched below
her own voice-that tenuous projection of self.
With music blasting, she feels she disappears,
is lost within the blare, which in fact I like.
But at four what she wants is self-location
and uses her voice as a porpoise uses
its sonar: to find herself in all this space.
If she had a sort of box with a peephole
and looked inside, what she'd like to see would be
herself standing there in her red pants, jacket,
yellow plastic lunch box: a proper subject
for serious study. But me, if I raised
the same box to my eye, I would wish to find
the ocean on one of those days when wind
and thick cloud make the water gray and restless
as if some creature brooded underneath,
a rocky coast with a road along the shore
where someone like me was walking and has gone.
Loud music does this, it wipes out the ego,
leaving turbulent water and winding road,
a landscape stripped of people and language-
how clear the air becomes, how sharp the colors.

Stephen Dobyns Comments

grant marcus 01 December 2020

I love Stephen Dobyns. He is the supreme story/poet. You left out one INCREDIBLE poem by Dobyns called, " White Pig." It's in Cemetery Nights, pp 58. You should include it in his work. It had such an impact on me and opened my eyes to what great writer he is.

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leonellys 20 September 2019

heyyyyyyy its lee im here follow my tiktok @rose.lely i love animals i have instagram follow me

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Marcello Comitini 30 November 2018

I was enchanted by Stephen Dobyns's poem Over a cup of coffee and published the translation in Italian on this site

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FRANK GRANDE 18 June 2018


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