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Dolphins are Different Dolphins Sometimes

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poems by Kevin Dunn

Text of Dolphins are Different Dolphins Sometimes


poems by Kevin Dunn



Some lines, titles, or themes of these poems were inspired by the following people:

Kelly Kraemer, Trevor Perla, Hugh Roberts, Emily Poe, Connor O'Brien, Jim Zimmerman, Jessica Perla, Allie Kriston & Jon Dunn, George Boff, Jeramie Powell & Brian Zimmerman, and Phillip Laudino. Thank you.

The boys above the swimming pool receive the sun.

Their groins are pressed against the warm cement.

They look as if they dream. As if their bodies dream.

Jack Spicer, Imaginary Elegies


These are the two dresses. Leaves fall

and sometimes a hunter will take his mark

and shoot out of season. Poach me for my ivory.

Drop me into boiling water and be careful

not to break me until I'm right where you want me:

over toast with ham and Hollandaise. Swallow me

with Echinacea, licorice root, raw honey,

and apple cider vinegar. It'll make you feel better,

mend the torn, floral pattern it's been too cold to wear.

Sacrifice me for your own strange comfort.


You came to me wrapped up

in chainmail, ready to fight

but that doesn't mean that I'm not

going to try to stab through

your heart or cut your arm off. I'm ready

to make this harder than it has to be

for both of us.

ACTUALLY DYINGA cat crosses the street

and is immediately hit by a car.

This happens to her every day.

She has been hit by the same car

every day of her life and, every day

of her life, she comes so close to

actually dying that sometimes

she actually does. It's not true

what they say about cats having

nine lives. They actually have zero.

She knows that the secret to

staying alive is on the other side

of the street, but she has never been

able to get there. One morning she is

hit by the car and actually dies. The car

is never seen on that street again.


After walking for several days,

I finally got to the market just as they're

about to close. The manager tells me

that they had just cashed out their register,

that they really can't make anymore sales,

but that they have an excess of heirloom tomatoes,

and would I want to take any home with me?

I didn't have any actual money. I only came

to the market to fall in love like everybody,

but heirloom tomatoes seemed, at the time, like a

healthier alternative. As I walk home with several

baskets full of heirloom tomatoes, I wonder

how many I would have to eat before I turned

into one. This seems like the kind of thing my mom

would know, I think, but I never ask her.


There are always an odd

number of people at the

family reunion, so every

year I have to sit the

three-legged race out. I

always pretend not to

care, that it's stupid or

whatever, but there's

really nothing I'd rather

do than tie my right leg

to the left leg of some

strange relative I barely


I find comfort in

the fact that if there were

some kind of emergency

during the three-legged

race, I'd probably be the

only one to survive because

I'd be able to get away a

lot easier than everybody

else. This calms me down

and I like it.

After a couple

hundred thousand years

or so of this, I've finally

developed a third leg

of my own, extending

from my hip, next to my

right leg. The family says

I have an unfair advantage

now and still won't let me

in their race, but now I

really don't care. I've met

and married a three-legged

girl and we have a beautiful

three-legged child. We've

started our own three-

legged race, and we're all so

happy together. At our

family reunions, we have

five-legged races and trade

tips on finding the appropriate

amount of socks.


When we were younger and the floor was lava,

we were always too afraid to jump from couch to couch,

so it always ended with us burning up or melting or

drowning or doing whatever you're supposed to do when

the floor is lava and you're younger. We did everything

you're supposed to do except get out of the house alive

because we didn't want something bad to happen.

It's taken a little while, but all that lava's finally dried up and

cooled into a smooth sheet of hard, furniture-filled rock.

In a thousand or so years, a curator at the Museum of Natural

History will decide that the floor has been dormant for some

time based on the bits of mid-90s decor present in the rock,

and an anecdote about our lives will continue to bore sleepy

children on class trips for years to come. Our bodies will be

left there though, bones burned up, melted, drowned. Just

an ashy black spot where the foot of your bed used to be.


We learned, eventually,

after years of staying awake,

that it didn't matter

how close our mattresses

were to the floor or even

if we destroyed them entirely

because they would still be there,

they would still come out at night.


A non-descript man and a featureless man were walking together along the river. The non-

descript man was not much to look at. Nothing about him was memorable to anybody he met

so nobody ever remembered him. The non-descript man would introduce himself to the same

people thousands of times, reminding them where they had met before but it was no use so

eventually he gave up. Well, the non-descript man finally said to the featureless man, you seem

to be my only friend in the entire world, but nobody was there to say anything in return.


You were nailed upside-down to the big oak right outside the door.

You were in a white plastic cone with all your blood rushing to your head forming warm pools in your eyes that I could have seen myself in had I looked.

You were waiting for me and nobody else to come slit your throat twice. Once on each side, just to make sure, you said.

You said it was how much you loved me and I let you go through with it even though I never believed you. I just made my home in your blood on the base of the tree, drowning beneath your eyelids.


to tie my hands behind my back

and put a bullet through my head



It is only slightly darker with my eyes

closed. The first time they show you the monster

he is a surprisingly upright shadow on the wall

and there is a windowpane-shaped grid projected

through his body and he shudders

for a moment where they edit the shots together.

The whole thing is silent and although he doesn't

look terribly unlike a real person, you

can just tell that it's raining and that he's

on his way to the beautiful girl's room to

probably kill her but they'd never show that before

the lights get thrown on and he disappears

out into the night. When I am playing the role

of the monster the lights never get turned on

but I never make it to the beautiful girl's room either.

Instead, I lose my balance and begin falling

down a never-ending flight of stairs in the hallway.

By the time I reach the bottom, the beautiful girl has gone

off with the director and the film is left unfinished.


The person who plays Jerry Seinfeld is the son of a former avocado farmer. He always looked up to his father, and when he was younger, the person who plays Jerry Seinfeld would spend all of his time trying to grow avocados in his bedroom. Both of his windowsills would always be full of plastic cups of water with the enormous pits of avocados suspended by toothpicks around the rim. The person who plays Jerry Seinfeld always used the rainbow box of toothpicks that his mother kept in the kitchen. He thought the blue and yellow toothpicks worked the best for avocado growing. Sometimes they'd grow and sometimes they wouldn't. He never told his father about the ones that didn't grow or about the toothpicks.


Pretty weird how the turtle's hard shell

grows as the rest of it grows, but the regular crab

just jumps right out of his and starts over.

You learn early on that the age of a tree

can be determined by counting the rings in the trunk

after you cut it down, which is very clearly wrong

unless there's some kind of ratio they use

like dog years or something.

Someday, somebody might want to count the rings inside you

and sometimes it will be because they love you

or maybe they just think they do.

But sometimes it will be because they don't love you,

and if it's that kind of time, you should keep your eyes closed

and your enemies closer and just grow into a new one.

Dolphins are different. Dolphins sometimes

wash up on the shore, but mostly they're pretty happy.

Dolphins teach you how to be dramatic.

I was a dolphin once.


We'd finally had it

so we dug up all the old cemeteries

and found more productive

uses for the bodies. Some of the bodies

we put into our paintings

and some we used for movies.

Then, of course we had to decide

what we should do with all the open

space we'd created. It was a

national debate. New businesses

started opening up all over

the country, along with new housing

developments for all the workers.

They put in a dog park where the

cemetery next door used to be.

The dogs of recently deceased people

were at first confused and then

overcome with joy to see their owners again.

There's research that suggests that

a dog can truly love its owner, but we aren't

like dogs and dogs aren't like us.


You are a tourist town

that nobody ever visits

and that I never visit.

I have never seen you in person

and so I can't even be sure

that you actually exist.

You have two rare used book stores

right across from one another

on the same exact street.

They are both full

of millions of dollars worth

of rare used books

but nobody has ever been inside

either one of them.

This is how I know

you are a tourist town:

No other town would have

two rare used book stores

right across

from one another.

There's no way

regular citizens need that

many rare used books

on a regular basis.

It would be a terrible business decision

but business isn't your strong suit.

Everybody thinks

something illegal

must be going on there.

They've never

sold a single solitary rare used book

but they've been

open since the beginning of time.

I'll bet they're in cahoots.

I'll bet they're to blame

for all the strange things

that've been happening

since the beginning of time.

I'll bet they're the ones

that painted

the Statue of Liberty green.

History has shown

that they were right.


A small group of bears escaped from the travelling circus that just came to town.

The mothers of the town worried frantically that their children would all be mauled

by the bears, but of course that isn't what happened. Instead, wild bears started popping up

in the intersections, waiting at red lights, or standing in line at the supermarket, and taking

overnight shifts as custodians at the schoolhouse. The escaped circus bears taught

the wild bears how to juggle and balance themselves on rubber balls. Having lost all interest

in the circus, the week's performances were naturally all cancelled and all the elephants

and tightrope walkers left the town. They would be out of work for quite some time.


In those days

I learned what your

ears tasted like

but was careful

about not going too far.

I came close once

and what I saw was


similar to the things

inside my head:

a black-eyed bear,

hollow, and impaled

accidently upon

a fencepost, unseen

in the furthest corner

of the dying garden,

just out of reach,

and breath.


I have spent all of my life

and a good part of yours

opening and closing the backdoor

of our house

so the heat will kick on

and then turn off again


It is difficult for you

to remember a time before

I was doing this

and you never even find out

that it's me.

It's so cold, you say

as you pull up the covers,

why don't you love me


And so I sneak downstairs

to close the door

and when I come back to bed

you've forgotten all about it and love me

more than ever.

Sometimes I forget

that I've abruptly opened the backdoor

and fall asleep before closing it.

The gas bill is a lot higher than usual

when this happens

and it makes us both angry

at each other.

And sometimes I remember

that I've abruptly opened the backdoor

and so I close it

after I've fallen asleep.

We love each other

so much

when the gas bill comes

those months.

What do you guys, live in a barn?

your father askswhen your parents come to visit.

Yes, I say, we do.


The house was big and empty, so our voices and all the other little sounds we made seemed much greater and more important than they actually were. Sometimes you'd say something and it would take years for the echo to die down and sometimes it would take even longer. There were so many sounds reverberating all at once that we would occasionally forget which ones were ours. We had some extra money after selling our bear costumes so we started buying furniture for the house. Couches, a bed, even a Persian rug to help keep the hardwood flooring nice even if it meant we wouldn't get to see it anymore. When the house was full of all these new things, the echoes stopped completely and when we spoke to each other it was hard to say who had said what, and when, and we grew to be afraid of the things inside our mouths.


What is in my mouth doesn't belong

there or anywhere or in anybody's

mouth. What is in my mouth? Nothing now

that all of my teeth are gone and besides,

you're the apple of my eye, so what

do I need real food for?


There is big news inside your mouth

but it's not like you're a teething child

or anything like that. You are about to tell me

something of great importance but when

you go to speak the house falls down around

us and you forget what it is.


We were playing Never Have I Ever

because we're actually children, but it was only

the two of us playing, so it was just like telling each other

everything that we already knew about each other.

But we already knew everything about each other

so we stopped.

I was losing the game

because I have a greater number of undesirable characteristics,

or rather, you were winning because you have fewer.

For example, you once climbed to the top of Mt. Everest.

I once painted the Statue of Liberty green.

So here:

Sometimes your hair is curly and sometimes it's straight.

It is always a pleasure to see you. And sometimes

you remember your glasses and sometimes you don't.

It is only a pleasure to see me part of the time.


Everything you do smells like vanilla extract

and you never say anything about that shirt I wear that's too small.

The bed we share isn't big enough for the two of us

and we don't have the money to get a bigger one.

We are very good at getting lost, so we sing along with the radio

even though we don't know the words or speak the language.

The wallpaper in the living room is a projection of a four-hour train ride

along the Norwegian countryside, northbound in the dead of winter.

The people at the station wave to us as we emerge from the tunnel.


Everything you do smells like vanilla extract

and you never say anything about that shirt I wear that's too small.

The bed we share isn't big enough for the two of us

and we don't have the money to get a bigger one.

We are very good at getting lost, so we sing along with the radio

even though we don't know the words or speak the language.

The wallpaper in the living room is a projection of a four-hour train ride

along the Norwegian countryside, northbound in the dead of winter.

The people at the station wave to us as we emerge from the tunnel.


They replaced your body with 27 seagulls

They replaced the forest with the Thanksgiving Day Parade

They replaced your dog with the wood you'll later use to heat your home

They replaced the ocean with loaves of bread

They replaced your favorite records with somebody else's favorite records

and they replaced their favorite records with yours

They replaced God with a deck of playing cards

They replaced your childhood home with something much worse

They replaced your fifth birthday party with a murder/arson

They replaced the clown your parents hired for your fifth birthday party

with a similar looking but less well-intentioned clown

They replaced the rain with people falling from the sky

They replaced the sky with the first boy you ever kissed

that one summer at camp and then never saw again

They replaced your chessboard with eight glasses of water

and they replaced all the pieces with plastic ice cubes

with fake flies in their centers

They replaced the vacuum cleaner with your favorite holiday traditions

They replaced your first serious romantic relationship with a yoga studio at the end of the world

They replaced the end of the world

They replaced Lake Michigan with the Electoral College

and Niagara Falls with the great horned owl

They replaced your carburetor with what your bedroom smells like when you're sleeping

so they replaced it with what I've always been curious about

They replaced the Statue of Liberty with an identical statue and no one ever noticed

They replaced your beach towel with cultural differences

They replaced the cemetery with so many dead people

They replaced your favorite food with so many dead people

They replaced love with so many dead people

They replaced so many dead people with so many dead people

They replaced the place that we love and hold near and dear to our heart with a gas station

They replaced the bathroom mirror with a hyper-realistic illustration of a giant spider

They replaced your daughter with a funeral procession for your daughter

and they didn't think to replace me with anything at all

It will be the bank that does it

It will be the government

It will be your sister

or it will be your boyfriend

It will be the cat that only has one life left

It will be the monster that doesn't even have the decency to hide beneath your bed

It will be the movie you thought was silent until you found the remote control

It will be the remote control

It will be the glass of red wine that is actually a glass of blood

and it will be the holiest thing you've ever tasted

It will be a basket of laundry with an odd number of socks

It will be a plugged in toaster oven the moment before it hits the water

It will be a lifetime's worth of bread crumbs that could've been used to feed your family

It will be a regular crab who never found a bigger shell

and it will be the dolphin washed up on the shore that eventually grew legs and drove to work

It will be a keychain bottle opener

It will claim itself as a dependent on your W-4

and it will never move out of your basement

It will be an Arthurian legend nobody's ever heard of

It will be a charming pop song from the 1940's

that our grandfathers still remember the words to

It will be vaguely good for you

and it will be pretty similar to the things inside my mouth

It will be of average height

and it will have long dark hair that is sometimes straight and sometimes curly

It might wear glasses

It will look good in a dress and it will know that it looks good in a dress

It will have big eyes

It will call me darling

and it will always know what to say

and it won't ever say anything

It will be absolutely beautiful

and it will look a lot like you


I apologized again and you

told me I didn't have to

so I apologized for that and then

once more for being unclear.

I thought you thought I was being

unclear because when I

apologized for apologizing you

looked annoyed, like you thought

I wasn't listening to you or something,

but I really was. I explained this

to you and then apologized for

assuming and then you really

were annoyed, so I apologized.

No, really, you finally said, it's fine. Alright, I said. Sorry.