‘I Don’t Miss It’ by Tracy K. Smith explores the loneliness that comes after a relationship has ended. The poem shifts back in time to when Smith was in a relationship, long hours of waiting for her lover to come home, hour upon hour of nothing. Although bored in her relationship, the excitement she felt each time he came home would fuel her for another day. Now out of this relationship, she is nostalgic for his touch, but also seems to understand the loneliness she was suffering through.
‘I Don’t Miss It’ by Tracy K. Smith begins by shifting back in time. The poet ‘forgets’ where she is as is transported back to being in her relationship. The descriptions and general atmosphere of her relationship are incredibly slow, monotonous, and monochrome – I would even venture as far as suggesting it was boring. Smith focuses on the long days of sitting on the sofa, just waiting for her lover to return. When he finally does, she gets a wave of excitement. Looking back on that time, she equally desires to be back in the moment of his touch and understands the monotonous nature of her life during their relationship. It is at once tragic and nostalgic.
You can read the full poem here.
The poem is 22 lines long, mostly being split into two-line stanzas, with the occasional intersecting one-line stanza. The one-line stanzas both function as the end of a distinct portion of memory or idea, the first denoting the end of describing the atmosphere and weather, the second signifying a change in tone of the poem. The very idea of a relationship is insinuated through these couplet lines, with Smith using the togetherness of the lines to reflect her current solitude. Furthering this, the two single lines acting as stanza three and eight could represent the individual members of the relationship, Smith and her ex-lover now alone again.
Analysis of I Don’t Miss It
But sometimes I forget where I am,Imagine myself inside that life again.
The poem begins by flowing on from the title, ‘I don’t miss it / But sometimes’, with Smith categorizing the memory as a continuation of her private thought. The focus on ‘sometimes’ displays the idea that her nostalgic engagement with memory is something more common than it would initially seem, this is not the first time she has delved into her past.
The use of two personal pronouns within the first line serves to focus the poem on the personal nature of ‘I Don’t Miss It,’ Smith engaging with her own memories.
The way in which Smith describes being ‘inside that life again’ is slightly unsettling to me. ‘Inside’ bears slight connotations of captivity, or being caged within something. Normally, at least in English, we describe past relationships as being ‘with’ someone, not ‘inside’ the relationship itself. Therefore, this could be a mechanism of Smith displaying her dependency on her ex-lover, the idea that she is kept ‘inside’, while waiting an off-putting notion of power-balance within the couple.
Stanzas Two and Three
Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,(…)Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.
These stanzas focus on the description of the general atmosphere of her time during the relationship. By employing the inconsistent presence of the ‘sun’ within ‘sun perhaps’, Smith creates a connotation of unhappiness, with ‘sun’ and the notion of light frequently being related to happiness within literature – a technique called pathetic fallacy.
The dismal appearance of her memory is furthered with the ‘colourless’ and ‘shapeless’ nature of ‘light’ and ‘cloud’ respectively. The monochrome and uninteresting descriptions further the sense that Smith is incredibly bored, waiting around all day for her lover to return being insinuated through these disheartening images.
Stanzas Four, Five, Six
And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke(…)Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.And that scamper of feeling in my chest,
Smith returns to using personal pronouns, ‘I begin to believe I haven’t left’. She is exploring the actions she took when in this situation, ‘the rest comes back’ suggesting she now remembers clearly what she was doing. The short sentence structure, ‘back. Our couch.’ Furthers the monotone boredom Smith feels at this stage in the poem, her nostalgia being tainted with the actual realization of how little she was doing with her life while in the relationship.
The poet sits on the ‘couch’, smoking while ‘the hours fall’. The stillness of this scene, the ‘smoke climbing’ being the only thing moving in the desolate memory, furthers the sense of boredom. the pluralization of ‘hours’ suggests that a long time passes this way each day, Smith just ‘waiting’ for hours on end.
The only sense of effort enacted in the poem is the ‘Straining against the noise of traffic, music’, Smith working hard to focus on catching the singular sound of ‘your key in the door’, the trigger which will tell her that her lover has returned for the day. This moment of relief is depicted as a ‘scamper of feeling in my chest’, a sudden lurch of excitement as her heart soars at the prospect of him returning.
Stanzas Seven and Eight
As if the day, the night, wherever it is(…)Of something other than waiting.
This sense of excitement is her only emotional response within the memory, the rest just being a hazy focus on a great nothingness of smoking and waiting. The lack of specificity within ’day, the night, where it is I am by then’ demonstrates how Smith solely waits for this moment. There is nothing in her life apart from his return, a tragic depiction of a relationship build on seemingly total dependence.
The singular sentence, ‘than waiting.’, terminated with the harsh end stop, marks the moment when her day of ‘waiting’ has finally come to the end. Her lover has returned home and now she can exist once more until the repeated action of waiting begins again tomorrow.
Stanzas Nine to Twelve
We hear so much about what love feels like.Right now, today, with the rain outside,(…)Run your hands down the sides of my legs,Knowing perfectly well what they know.
The notion that as humans, we consume so much media that tells us ‘what love feels like’ is a concept that still applies greatly today. Throughout history the action of loving and being loved has been immortalized as a pinnacle of human life and desire, with Smith using this as a form of excuse to why she would waste away all her days, seeking that one moment of return – a symbol of love that makes everything worth it.
Even now that she has escaped the monotony of the relationship, she still has moments in which she desires that momentary confirmation of love, a feeling of her lover ‘run[ning] your hands down the sides of my legs’, the human connection after a day of nothingness allowing her to feel love once again. There is still something deep down in the poet that misses those moments, even knowing how monotone her days had become. Smith asks the question, is a life lived in grey worth a moment of love?