The Depression

Dec 1, 2017

Today’s poem is "The Depression" by Ira Sadoff. He’s published six collections of poetry, most recently True Faith and is currently putting together a New And Selected Poems. He’s also published a novel, and a critical book on poetry and culture called On The Margins.

He writes “’The Depression” was written during a tumultuous time. I've always had to work hard for happiness: I depended on being conscious, on facing difficulty without repression, but as you can tell from the opening of the poem it wasn't working. There's so much luck in happiness and for many, too many obstacles -- economic, psychological -- prevent it. But when I let go of intellect I found a new receptivity to joy when it became available, and the peace and beauty that accompanied that love just knocked me over.”


The Depression
Ira Sadoff

A critical mass came over me.
All those little things we do for ourselves—
chocolate bars, a clean shirt, good books, my favorite pew
at church—were suddenly unavailable.

Coming home was opening the vault.
Someone was sitting on me. The welt
was inside my forehead. Motion was a concept,
like algebra. In other words I was adjacent

to the maelstrom: I won’t take it away
by effacing it: it was no cloudy day in November.
It was raucous, with all my pliable desires
going nowhere: I was modeling clay.

You can’t figure it out, she said,
Should I thank psychoanalysis for that?
The current lingo’s all immersion, self-sufficiency,
dredging up the dark and staring into it. Later,

maybe decades later, we’ll laugh at the gall of it.
Since for no good reason, the she I wanted came to me.
I thought of the shiny ebony of a Steinway.
Pedals. The petals, peeling back. Then the prattling stopped.

All the familiar figures abandoned me. You see, I was all along
unprepared for the stillness that accompanies happiness.

Poem copyright © 1998 Ira Sadoff.
Reprinted from Grazing: Poems, University of Illinois Press, 1998,
by permission of Ira Sadoff.