The artist Danny Sillada and I have been discussing short poems and what is uniquely challenging about writing a poem that is complete in its language and emotional arc, but brief in its number of lines. Yesterday, the poet Vijay Seshadri suggested I look up the poet Jean Valentine, who is a writer of short poems. I found this poem on her site:
Once there was a woodcutter,
when he asked me to marry him
the woman in the grocery store said
You look like you lost your last friend.
When we broke up
it was as if the last egg in the house
got dropped on the broken floor.
This world is everywhere! The woman said,
You won’t go unsampled!
This poem is replete with the energy of love and despair and, finally, hope. The interaction between the two women--one young and dealing with the loss of her first love, and one older and wiser and knowledgable in the world--is sweet and totally believable. My favorite lines are the last two: "This world is everywhere! The woman said, / You won't go unsampled!" She assures the young woman, in the most joyful, encouraging, way, that "there are more fish in the sea," and that, like the morsels of food in her grcoery store, the young women will surely be "tasted" by others.
I cannot escape, however, the older woman's characterization of the younger woman as object in the sentence, that she will "be sampled" by others rather than "sample" others herself. It is a complicated ending to me, as I'm not sure that the young woman has gained any power through her experience. I would prefer that she go out and discover the "everywhere-ness" of the world and taste it through her own will; but perhaps that ending would be too easy. Perhaps there is a prescience in the grocer's words about the younger woman's fate.