Poem of the Week | March 18, 2019

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Different Kinds of Sadness” by Jenny Molberg!

Jenny Molberg is the author of Marvels of the Invisible (winner of the 2014 Berkshire Prize, Tupelo Press, 2017) and Refusal (forthcoming, LSU Press). Her work has recently appeared in Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, Tupelo Quarterly, Boulevard, and other publications. She is the recipient of a 2019-2020 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as scholarships and fellowships from the Sewanee Writers Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and the CD Wright Women Writers conference. She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Missouri, where she directs Pleiades Press and edits Pleiades magazine. Find her online at jennymolberg.com
Molberg was recently a runner-up for Missouri Review‘s 2019 Editors’ Prize contest.


Different Kinds of Sadness

to E.A.H.

Sometimes a friend can save your life,
as when you drove in from Albuquerque

the day I left the man I thought would kill me.
We went to the train station and sat

among the Beaux Arts pediments and bas-reliefs
having a cocktail called the Manhattan, Kansas.

You brought a package of fresh tortillas,
some butter, some cheese—we’ll survive,

the we a sort of kindness, a kind of sadness.
The drinks were garnished

with shriveled figs instead of maraschinos,
which was a different kind of sadness.

The station was built in 1914
and no one who can remember 1914 is left.

Your eyes began to time-travel
behind your white-rimmed glasses

and I knew you were thinking about your son.
The lives we have chosen not to live

are enough to fill the whole day’s train
with ghosts and ghosts and ghosts.

But there are also people
who have known you forever,

which is yet another kind of sadness
because you’ve only just met.


Author’s Note:

This poem, like many of the poems in my forthcoming collection Refusal, is a love letter to a friend. I found myself, in the wake of divorce and a subsequent abusive relationship, relying heavily upon my support system of female friends, and I’m interested in challenging the traditional canon of heterosexual love poems by focusing on the often unshakeable and quantifiably more stable relationship that can occur between two women. In her 1980 essay, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Experience,” Adrienne Rich writes, “However woman-to-woman relationships, female support networks, a female and feminist value system are relied on and cherished, indoctrination in male credibility and status can still create synapses in thought, denial of feeling, wishful thinking, a profound sexual and intellectual confusion.” Her words, I believe, still hold true today, and in poems like these I seek to examine the gaslighting that I have experienced within the structures of patriarchal power, and uplift the women in my life who have seen me through those challenges. This poem considers what “choices” we have as women, and the resulting self-questioning that arises upon making them.