Little Essay on Communication


Safe to say that most men who want
      to communicate,
who would use that word, are shameless

and their souls long ago have drifted
      out of their bodies
to faraway, unpolluted air.

Such men no doubt have learned women
      are starved
for communication, that it's the new way

to get new women, and admission of weakness
      works best of all.
Even some smart women are fooled,

though the smartest know that to communicate
      is a form of withholding,
a commercial for intimacy while the heart

hides it its little pocket of words.
      And women
use the word too, everyone uses it

who doesn't have the gift of communication;
      it's like the abused
asking for love, never having known

what it feels like, not trusting it
      if it lacks pain.
But let's say a good man and a good woman,

with no motives other than desire
      for greater closeness,
who've heard communication is the answer,

sign up for a course at the Y,
      seek counseling,
set aside two hours in the week

for significant talk. What hope for them?
      Should we tell them
very little, or none at all?

As little or none as there is for us,
      who've cut
right to the heart, and still conceal,

who've loved many times well into the night
      in good silence
and have awakened, strangely distant,

thinking thoughts no one should ever know?


Stephen Dunn, What Goes On: New and Selected Poems 1995-2009, W.W. Norton, 2009.