"The Metaphysicians of South Jersey"

by Stephen Dunn

Because in large cities the famous truths

already had been plumbed and debated,

the metaphysicians of South Jersey lowered

their gaze, just tried to be themselves.

They’d gather at coffee shops in Vineland

and deserted shacks deep in the Pine Barrens.

Nothing they came up with mattered

so they were free to be eclectic, and as odd

as getting to the heart of things demanded.

They walked undisguised on the boardwalk.

At the Hamilton Mall they blended

with the bargain-hunters and the feckless.

Almost everything amazed them,

the last hour of a county fair,

blueberry fields covered with mist.

They sought the approximate weight of sadness,

its measure and coloration. But they liked

a good ball game too, well pitched, lots of zeros

on the scoreboard. At night when they lay down,

exhausted and enthralled, their spouses knew

it was too soon to ask any hard questions.

Come breakfast, as always, the metaphysicians

would begin to list the many small things

they’d observed and thought, unable to stop talking

about this place and what a world it was.

From Stephen Dunn: Different Hours: Poems
In 2000 Dunn received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

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