“Pathetic” by Suzanne Zeitman

Suzanne Zeitman


How long have I been sitting on the couch, in a nightgown with a worn-out cardigan on top? Across from me hang seven pictures: two of my dead parents, five more of my daughter (also dead). All I have to do is look at any one of them to shrink inside with feeling there is much I should have done but didn’t. I hear a child outside yell what sounds like I don’t want to be lonely. If this were a poem, I think, now would be the time for some tiny joy of nature to appear and mitigate the speaker’s pain. Perhaps a crimson cardinal on the window sill. But if the cardinal won’t show up, what then? Or if it does, but keeps colliding with the window while attacking its reflection in the glass? What if nothing, surely no deluded cardinal, soothes you, and it’s you who wants to scream because you’re lonely, and there is no cheery cardinal, child or grandchild to sustain you? Maybe your life really is random and meaningless and thus irredeemable, and you can’t turn it or the poem around—but the poem, at least, doesn’t have to go on like this.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

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Suzanne Zeitman: “Although I usually avoid attempts to relate mathematics and poetry, this particular poem exhibits a kind of self-reference, something that occurs in mathematics, especially in mathematical logic. I have spent more of my life on mathematics than on writing or other literary pursuits, although I have always been drawn slightly more to the literary. I have a master’s degree in mathematics, a PhD in computer science, and an MFA in writing from Vermont College. I recently retired after working twenty years as an editor of Mathematical Reviews, a review journal for research in mathematics.”

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