Sad Sack

Advice and insight from a professional poet.


in Archive



Just one scratch beneath the surface of anything lies immense sadness. Why?
—Dr. Sunshine

I gasp at your acumen, Dr. Sun. Stephen Dunn’s “Sadness,” holds a lot of promise here:

It was everywhere, in the streets and houses,
on farms and now in the air itself.
It had come from history and we were history
so it had come from us.

Sadness had come from history, from time’s passing, and because we are the only beings who measure time’s passing and term it “history,” it had really come from us. Everything in this world is affected by time, right? Picture this: The sun passes through the leaves on a warm fall day, enticing you to take a walk in the park. You take a pullover with you because you might get cold but it certainly isn’t cold enough for your winter coat. The squirrels are noshing; the ducks are quacking, the leaves falling to the ground in gorgeous hues of gold and red. But winter is coming soon. Soon the ducks will be gone, the squirrels will be gone, and your winter coat will be permanently affixed to your body above four layers. You will look over the frozen pond and remark to yourself how quickly time passed, how just the other day you were playing Wiffle ball on the beach in your gym shorts. Dunn continues:

I told my artist friends who courted it
not to suffer
on purpose, not to fall in love
with sadness
because it would be naturally theirs
without assistance.

Sadness comes naturally, like time, like the loss of time, and the loss of anything is sad, and around and around we go. Life is sadness, sadness, life, but we could also say joy or beauty, depending on how you look at it. We get a lot of mileage out of sadness though:

And then, too, the woes
of others would get in,
but mostly I was inured and out
to make a decent buck
or in pursuit of some slippery pleasure
that was sadness disguised.

Well said Stephen Dunn, Dr. S.

P.S.: If there’s sadness beneath the surface of my pumpkin pie, I’m going to be pissed. • 26 October 2009