Poem of the Week, by Stephen Dunn

IMG_0447I’m teaching a Creative Writing Boot Camp this week. Six days in a row, seven hours a day, nineteen of us gather in a windowed classroom halfway between Minneapolis and St. Paul to write and write and talk and talk about the art and craft and act of writing. Poems and tiny short stories, tiny memoirs. Beautiful, painful, funny, wistful fragments of life, captured on paper and released into the invisible air of the room. I could teach for another fifty years and never lose this astonishment, that nurses and truck drivers and musicians and stay at home parents and hair stylists and sex workers and clerks and commodities traders and group home workers, Muslim and Christian and atheist, come together in a single small room and transform themselves and me and the whole outside world by the power of sharing stories. If a teacher asked me to name a sacred place, the classroom would be mine.

The Sacred
     – Stephen Dunn

After the teacher asked if anyone had
a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank

in their chairs, the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone, his tape deck playing

things he’d chosen, and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,

their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it, and sometimes one other person

who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need

to speak, or to answer, the key
in having a key
and putting it in, and going.


For more information about Stephen Dunn, please click here.


  1. Gabrielle McGhee · August 7, 2016

    You are a teacher extraordinaire, my daughter. You will find a way, even after you retire.

    Love …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicole · August 7, 2016

    Love this one! That was my safe space as a teen/young adult too. The car, with my music. The place I could be away from all and that felt like truly my own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alisonmcghee · August 7, 2016

      I feel the same way, Nicole. Still do. Me alone in my car, especially when heading out west on those wild stretches of uninhabited highway. And my daughters both have a ritual, whenever they’re home, of taking the car solo late at night and driving around the lakes.


  3. gull1066 · August 7, 2016

    My sacred place was taken from me when I suffered my brain injury. I can no longer have the radio on whilst I drive, I can’t tolerate the distraction.

    My new sacred space is a quiet twilit guestroom in our house when per chance I am completely alone.

    Zen space and the gigantic emptiness of being. My own soothing solace of solitude.


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