Stephen Dunn passed away a few days ago at the age of 82. He was one of my absolute favorite poets. His specialty was seeing meaning in the smallest of things, and his work had immense wit that was also quite expansive. His poems would often take on bigger and bigger meanings as they went along, yet they always stayed grounded in the real and specific. He had such a marvelous way of seeing!
In his honor, here’s his poem “Testimony,” which was published in the New Yorker not quite ten years ago.
The Lord woke me in the middle of the night,
and there stood Jesus with a huge tray,
and the tray was heaped with cookies,
and He said, Stephen, have a cookie,
and that’s when I knew for sure the Lord
is the real deal, the Man of all men,
because at that very moment
I was thinking of cookies, Vanilla Wafers
to be exact, and there were two
Vanilla Wafers in among the chocolate
chips and the lemon ices, and one
had a big S on it, and I knew it was for me,
and Jesus took it off the tray and put it
in my mouth, as if He were giving me
communication, or whatever they call it.
Then He said, Have another,
and I tell you I thought a long time before I
refused, because I knew it was a test
to see if I was a Christian, which means
a man like Christ, not a big ole hog.