Alan Dugan

(12 February 1923 - 3 September 2003 / New York City, New York)

Love Song: I And Thou


Nothing is plumb, level, or square:
the studs are bowed, the joists
are shaky by nature, no piece fits
any other piece without a gap
or pinch, and bent nails
dance all over the surfacing
like maggots. By Christ
I am no carpenter. I built
the roof for myself, the walls
for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
hung up in it myself. I
danced with a purple thumb
at this house-warming, drunk
with my prime whiskey: rage.
Oh I spat rage’s nails
into the frame-up of my work:
it held. It settled plumb,
level, solid, square and true
for that great moment. Then
it screamed and went on through,
skewing as wrong the other way.
God damned it. This is hell,
but I planned it, I sawed it,
I nailed it, and I
will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
to the left-hand crosspiece but
I can’t do everything myself.
1 need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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  • Thomas Harris (2/1/2014 11:16:00 AM)

    One of the reasons why I like Alan Dugan so much. I read this poem long before I was married, and did not realize how accurate it was, and how funny, self-mocking, and affectionate. (Report) Reply

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