Gregory J. Dunne

Seed Trees, First Day & Home Test

Gregory J. Dunne

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Seed Trees

  –– for William Stafford, in memory

His wife spoke of his readiness

to drop anything

at a moment’s notice – his readiness

to run and help a neighbor

who might have given him a call.


His response was always the same:

Be right there! Imagine

the presence of mind –

so prepared as that –

to say whatever I am doing now


can wait until I see about you first. 

Maybe he was a genius

as Jonathan Holden said,

a man who made his poems

with pleasure and ease,


but her quavering voice tells me,

he was also someone who understood

how many a poem remains –

because it was left

along the way – unwritten


to do its work in time

the way a logger might

plant the finest trees

by leaving one behind –

the tallest strongest one –


to seed the forest back again alive. 


First Day

Bigger than most, she’s sitting pretty

looking alert – her hair done up

in a pony tail. She's wearing her uniform

and stretching the skirt beneath herself

the way a lady would. Younger kids,

two and three years-old, march

past outside the window. Now,

from out behind her calm countenance

come the welling tears she quickly

brushes aside with her fingers.

I want to go to her but know

I must stand away. All I can do

is smile from the back of the room, this room

I am beginning to take the measurement of –

call it fatherhood from here on out. But already

I have her tears in my eyes, too,

it works like that and she sees this and chokes

into a sobbing that seems to rush between us

like a river we can neither get across

nor meet in the middle of – at least not until

she turns to face the teacher, and I,

on my side, turn to face this dearest song

I think I’ve ever heard, lifting into my heart

light and airy as the blossoms streaming

from the trees in the yard and pouring

into the afternoon heat their small sweetness.


Yokkaichi, Japan


Home Test

  For Airi

The world looks different

when you come home from work

and your wife meets you at the door

with one of those sticks she holds in the air

as if she were a diviner out looking for water,

or maybe someone testing to see

which way the wind is blowing. Today

it’s gale-force catches our sails – that stick

reading she’s positive for pregnancy again –

Home Test, and now showing me the line

running down the center, luminous and alive

with a future we are tending towards. Her eyes,

large with alarm or playful disbelief, show me

the hope and expectation below,

and how she loves the moment

she breaks the news and watches me spin

into my worries of Whoaaa –

How are we going to manage THREE? And yet

before I spin so far as that, I’m with her

on the floor of our living room braced

for all we feel sweeping through us – this clearing

instant of change that leaves us marooned

upon the shores of our being here

with each other in the quiet surprise

that hits like a wave and leaves us

stretched out into it – this new world

we feel for the first time we are meeting.


Gregory J. Dunne


Gregory J. Dunne is the author of two collections of poetry: Fistful of Lotus (2000) and Home Test (Adastra Press, 2009). His most recent book is the critical memoir, Quiet Accomplishment, Remembering Cid Corman (Ekstasis Editions, 2014). A new collection of poetry, Other/Wise is due out in 2019 with Isobar Press (Tokyo & London). He teaches in the Department of Comparative Culture at Miyazaki International College, Japan.