The Arm || Stephen Dunn

A doll's pink, broken-off arm
was floating in a pond
a man had come to with his dog.
The arm had no sad child nearby
to say it was hers, no parent to rescue it
with a stick or branch,

and this pleased the man to whom
absence always felt like opportunity.
He imagined a girl furious
at her younger sister, taking it out on her
one limb at a time.

Yet the sun was glancing off
the arm's little pink fingers,
and the pond's heart-shaped lily pads
seemed to accentuate an oddness,
which he thought beautiful.

When he and the dog looked for
the doll's body but couldn't find it,
a different image came to him,
of a father who hated the fact
that his son liked dolls.
What was floating there

was a punishment that didn't work,
for the boy had come to love
his one-armed doll even more.
Once again the man was struck
by how much misery
the human spirit can absorb.

His dog wanted to move on,
enough of this already.
But the man was creating little waves
with his hands, and the arm, this thing
his wife was sure to question,
was slowly bobbing toward him.


This is a perfect example of what poetry has taught me greatly. It is reflecting on simple things and moments that you observe. You may notice an object minding its own business which most people tend to ignore, but a poet like the speaker of this poem has a natural element in his well-being to ask oneself why the object is there, where it came from, what is its story? And here, the agent is allowed to be imaginative and to reflect as if the moment was somewhat surreal that he owns its backward story. And I love this kind of experience and feeling because I love story telling and making up sentiments not existent to my own or detached from what we call real.


  1. This is fabulous story-telling. It's almost a shock when you bring the reader back to the present at the end.

  2. Very lovely. I like how the old man creates stories around this will arm. Don't we all do this, imagine what someone else is thinking, or imagine someone's story. Aren't we always right and wrong?


  3. amazing story..great gripping writing style

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