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 the 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 in the boardwalk.
At the Hamilton Mall they blended
with the bargain-hunters and the feckless.
Almost everything amazed them,
the last hour of a country 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 score board. 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.

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