Listen to Gail Mazur reading this poem. 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? World of intentional iron, pure savage organized iron of the world, it hasn't the time that you have for your puny enormous sadness.
Gail Mazur's fifth book, Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems, won the 2006 Massachusetts Book Award in poetry. Her most recent collection of poems, Figures in a Landscape, was published n 2011. She is distinguished writer in residence in the graduate program of Emerson College.
Clickhere to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.To submit poetry to Slate, send up to five poems and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Robert Pinsky, Slate Magazine, Boston University, 236 Bay State Road, Boston, MA, 02215.