In Mona Van Duyn's "Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri", what is the "quake last night"?
The “quake last night,” which the speaker refers to in line 1, may involve a personal problem, or else a problem in the attitude of the listener toward the speaker—we are not told the exact circumstances. But a problem was expressed, and to the speaker it has assumed the magnitude of “earth tremors felt in Missouri.” Depending on the location of the speaker and listener, Missouri may be as far as halfway across the country. Personal circumstances, in other words, become earth shaking, and what might seem to be no more than a “pebble” to the outside world has planetary importance, even going so far as to encompass and include “the sun.” Ordinary and everyday life thus becomes cosmic. This elevation of the personal is reminiscent of the relationships described by Donne in a number of his love poems.