Two Poems, by Kathleen Ossip

Two Poems
~Kathleen Ossip


On Sadness


I noticed something strange and beautiful about the word “sad.” It’s the only emotion word that you can use for a general situation and also for how a person feels.

You can say “I’m sad.” And when someone dies or love is gone you can say “It’s so sad.”

You can’t say (about a situation) “It’s happy” or “It’s anxious” or “It’s ashamed” or “It’s angry.”

I don’t do sad very well. It seems to be the hardest emotional state to accept and even to honor or celebrate.

I want to leap immediately from “I’m sad” to “The world is ugly and the people are sad.”

Or “I’m sad so the world is fucked up so I want to blow up the world.”

Or “I’m sad and then it will pass and I’ll be happy again.”

You always asked: What do I feel like doing? I always ask: What should I be? Those are two very different ways of being sad

or happy. That’s why your death fell like a sea on me. Sadness flopped violently at my feet

then it died too, and now the remnants of sadness lie scattered about the situation, like bones and salt.



On Beauty


Firstly, you are beautiful,

moonfaced brothers and sisters.


But after that, what

is not open to question?


To pick up the torn wing

and paperclip it onto the angel


is a distortion rapidly done.

Distortion is beautiful,


and loud hearty laughter

as of the gods.


Beauty moves upwards from the leaf,

downwards from the root.


Beauty is quietly

born from boredom


into fabulousness or plainness.

Don’t ask whether it exists.


It’s a redundancy to say real.

Beauty is truth? Don’t ask.


Ask for inner resources unlimited.

Ask for a goldfinch feather


in a balsawood box.

Look not at what is loved


but what stimulates and soothes.

Brothers and sisters,


are words beautiful or ugly

because we mean them


so very deeply?




Kathleen Ossip is the author of The Cold War, which was named one of Publishers Weekly’s 100 best books of 2011; The Search Engine, which won the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize; and Cinephrastics, a chapbook of movie poems. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, the Washington Post, Fence, The Believer, and Poetry Review (London). She teaches at The New School in New York, where she was a founding editor of LIT, and she’s the poetry editor of Women’s Studies Quarterly.  She teaches at The New School and online for The Poetry School in London.


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