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Lawrence Raab

Lawrence Raab

Lawrence Raab is the author of seven collections of poems, including What We Don't Know About Each Other (1993), winner of the National Poetry Series and a finalist for the National Book Award, The Probable World (2000), and Visible Signs: New and Selected Poems (2003), all published by Penguin. His latest collection is The History of Forgetting (Penguin, 2009). He teaches literature and writing at Williams College.

A Difficult Assignment

—for and after Stephen Dunn
You'll need an adjective for bedroom,
another that makes the forest you keep returning to

seem run-down, a kind of bad neighborhood.
Then an adjective before "path," which changes

the meaning of it, as if you weren't going to end up
where you planned. Or the opposite—

you can't help where you're going. And where
would that be? It's up to you, but remember,

in all of this you should be alone
although at some point a beautiful woman

must appear, throwing everything into question.
That's when the false note rings true.

Maybe she has something to say about Cedar Rapids
or Muddy Waters. She's imaginary,

she can say anything you want. Yes,
how much she desires you is one kind of beginning,

but another might involve looking carefully
at the flowers at the edge of the forest, asking her

their names, then suggesting you don't care
where the path leads if that's where she wants to go.


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