Parable of the Fictionist

He wanted to own his own past,

be able to manage it

more than it managed him.

He wanted all the unfair

advantages of the charmed.

He selected his childhood,

told only those stories

that mixed loneliness with

rebellion, a boy’s locked heart

with the wildness

allowed inside a playing field.

And after he invented himself

and those he wished to know him

knew him as he wished to be known,

he turned toward the world

with the world that was within him

and shapes resulted, versions,


In his leisure he invented women,

then spoke to them about

his inventions, the wish just

slightly ahead of the truth,

making it possible.

All around him he heard

the unforgivable stories

of the sincere, the boring,

and knew his way was righteous,

though in the evenings, alone

with the world he’d created,

he sometimes longed

for what he’d dare not alter,

or couldn’t, something immutable

or so lovely he might be changed

by it, nameless but with a name

he feared waits until you’re worthy,

then chooses you.

Stephen Dunn

… there are refuges that are just watering holes on the way to nowhere. The refuge of the habitual-the comfort of it, the stasis. The refuge of wishing to please-those little forays into hackdom that injure the soul. The refuge of the lie, how it buys time, lets you ride for a while in its big white car.

I tell my students the public wants excitement without danger, wants the artist to be considerate enough to stop before his bones show, to please not be so tacky as to disturb. I talk about the refuge of the neatly wrapped package. The refuge of the melodious. The refuge of entertainment and distraction that all of us except those artists who go all the way seem to need.


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