Carl Dennis

More Reason
April 19, 2013 Dennis Carl

More Reason


Though you may be a scribe in ancient Egypt

Or a breeder of horses among the Persians,

While I’m a dry-goods merchant in Peoria, Illinois,

I’d like to believe we can sit and reason together.


Though you attended, with the flower of Athens,

The first performance of the plays of Sophocles,

While I observed one last month in modern dress

At Peoria’s regional theater,

We can learn something from sharing our perspectives.


No doubt you believe in the myths that to me

Are only stories, but if I make the effort

Reason requires, I may grasp what’s implied

When the hero, in serving one god, runs afoul

Of another just as imposing. Their names may be strange

But the principles they embody may be familiar,

Two living truths locked in contention.


And if you insist that you hear a voice from above

Conversing with you in private at least once a day,

As do many of my fellow Peorians, while I hear nothing,

We can still sit down and discuss what I

Must do to live in peace with myself

And what you must do so the voice you host

Has an easier time enjoying your company.


Is your list of virtues different from mine?

That’s a question we can reason about together

Over a meal we share at a kitchen table

Set anywhere between here and Persia.

You won’t be offended if sincerity

Keeps me from praising the camel brisket.

I won’t be offended if you fail to ask

For a second helping of rhubarb pie.

Carl Dennis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his book Practical Gods, is the author of eleven books of poetry, including, most recently, Callings. He has published poetry in Atlantic Monthly, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Paris Review, New Yorker, and Salmagundi, and his work appears in numerous anthologies, including Best American Poetry and Pushcart Anthology. He lives in Buffalo, New York.