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The Protean Man

by Stephen Dunn


for Robin Johnstone


Every year a new hat
with a new head in it.
It happens in June,
these ritual murders of himself,
these large, continuous births.
He shows up at our house and says
the man we knew went out of style,
and introduces himself anew.
Each time it gets easier for us;
he’s the new book by an author
we’ve learned to trust: we buy it
because we’re buying him.
This year he says “I’m going to build
houses and pursue the astral”
and we nod, knowing he’s serious.
“Wait”, I say, “til I get the wine
and we can relax and hear about it”.
“I don’t drink wine anymore”, he says.


Stephen Dunn’s Looking for Holes in the Ceiling was published by the University of Massachusetts Press and sold out the first edition. His second collecton, Transitions, is ready for publication. (Spring 1975)

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