by Gail Mazur
What a small feeling the phrase enormously sad
alludes to this morning—a child has turned
away, or, you sense defeat, the grief and defeat
of disappointed love, failed friendships, defeat
of work come to nothing. Grief and defeat
pervade the kitchen, the bedroom, the walk
downstairs to the laundry, pervade the basket
of unloved socks and charmless underwear,
and the arms holding the basket, and the feet
feeling blindly for the unreliable old steps.
Enormously sad, this unwanted quiet’s suffused
with it, not the quietude you’ve surely yearned for,
not a solitude elected, the cell with favorite books,
savory meals left at the door, occasional nocturnal
visits (but that would compromise the solitude,
wouldn’t it?) Sad, so sad—compared to what?
To your earlier more oblivious state?
It never was oblivious enough—
always those presentiments of sadness
prickling the limbic. Now a voice says, Get outside
yourself, go walk on the flats. The tide’s gone out—
but your little metal detector will detect little metallic coins
of enormous sadness in the teeming wet sand,
and then, the tide will come back, erasing, cleansing!
And you, standing there in the salty scouring air—
will you still be enormously sad,
while the other world, outside your tiny purview, struck
by iron, reels? Would of intentional iron, pure savage
organized iron of the worked, it hasn’t the time
that you have for your puny enormous sadness.
Copyright © by Gail Mazur. This poem is from Zeppo’s First Wife, University of Chicago Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.