A Map of Some Unhappiness

by Heather

comments by:


Pride comes first.
Erin studies Latin,
Jan, Greek
on opposite sides of the small room
ideas of intimacy memorized
even while one woman watches
the other stand,
and leave.

Next, rage.
The flicker of blind confidence.
We will be stronger. Less needy.  Like Atlas,
rejecting all strangers, all visitors.
We do not fear becoming mountains,
our shoulders cliffs, no longer a place to lean
but a sharp edge, a place to plunge from.
It's the nineties, we do not fear
that coldness.

What would we have changed?  The desire.
Or our fear of that desire. Now
just the friendship would be
enough, we could make that
be enough.  Several friends experience                                         
the same silent pain, in the same city,
creating a map of some unhappiness.

A burden.
Erin goes to the cafe to study.
She drinks a cup of coffee.
She falls asleep at the table
in the clamoring, crowded room.
No one notices.
She wakes, startled.
Everything is the same.                                                        

Accourding to Mytili Jagannathan: From: mytilij@dept.english.upenn.edu (Mytili Jagannathan) Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999 16:08:03 -0400 (EDT) Heather, Been reading "A Map of Some Unhappiness" (great title, btw) and I'm intrigued. The poem seems to hover over the outlines of relationship, risk, refusal. I like how you use space in this poem (and in many of your poems, incidentally) -- the two women studying on opposite sides of the room, also interesting that they're studying ancient languages, another spatial/temporal remove (of course I'm assuming she's not studying modern Greek!). And I really like "our shoulders cliffs, no longer a place to lean/but a sharp edge, a place to plunge from". So the movement from pride to rage to regret seems to work for me, and I like how the poem opens out to acknowledge the unhappiness as a "type" shared by others in the city. The confusion of a woman having romantic feelings for a female friend, either not reciprocated or not risked, thus the boundaries of the friendship become more closed, guarded. It's the last stanza that I'm not sure about. I'm a little let down by "Everything is the same." Maybe I want the poem to be longer, maybe I want to know what she dreams in the "clamoring, crowded room." Or if you want to avoid using dream for overt symbolism, maybe bits of conversation could float in from the clamor. I guess I feel drawn in by the first three stanzas and then shut abruptly out. Curious to hear what you (and others) think... best, Mytili