Happiness Severity Index
Though in the lower standard deviation, I fall, the statistician says,
within the normal range of happiness. Therefore, no drugs today.
What about tomorrow? What if doodling stars isn’t enough?
Will I be asked to color the rainbow one more time?
Name three wishes that might come true?
List everything I’ve been given within a minute?
Though within the normal range of happiness, I score poor
on bird appreciation, poor on oboe joy. My responses, in fact,
seem to indicate an overall confusion concerning joy itself.
What did I mean that during parties I choose the sofa
like a sick cat? That when tattoos are dispensed I’m first
in line? That books full of other people’s misery
make the beach infinitely more pleasant? Stargazing is another weakness.
Too much I examine the patch of dirt where nothing grows
where buried curiosa aren’t deep enough, though in Short Answer
I’m all for dancing alone in a silken robe. Friends call.
Mostly the machine answers. Mozart makes me cry.
I kill spiders without guilt. To make up for this
I take the kids to the golden arches play area.
A positive indicator. Also, interest in the existential
is minimal. I approve of make-up and ice cream.
When I wake early, I get out of bed. When I wallow
in planetary counterpoint, it never lasts. And here’s what really saves me:
if I were a ghost I’d be Casper. If I were a tradition
I’d be a dreidel. I like the rain. When the boat drifts off
I wave. When the dog runs off I follow.
Don’t open the blinds; give me fifteen minutes.
This morning my mind like a century
which sees the rise and fall of 22 emperors
and all I’ve done is empty the dishwasher.
Grant me a sweet cup of forgetfulness, god.
Let’s blot out the never-made call to the lonely friend.
The baby sunflower, gift from my son, I didn’t water
four days in a row.
Once I wrote a twenty-page paper delineating
all the muscles bones tracts synapses involved in speaking
the word spring.
Envision a system of wild estuaries, derivations,
deer skeleton, river thaw,
the road to the contagious hospital.
Now say it aloud.
My Head a Pine Cabinet with Female Cardinal Ascending
is one way to say the episode subsides.
I am a girl again. A tendril of vine
cage snakes to the floor.
Also inside you’ll find the damp
of ice melt. Whiteout
still in memory. And that outpost
room: stale biscuits and Lipton,
the trompe l’oeil of the hunted hare,
matches, gauze. A medical book
showing close-ups of frostbite,
fingers swollen to the size of blowfish.
Whether the chronic dusk
was a result of winter or heavy drapery
I can’t say. Nor am I certain
if the hungry susurrations
came from wind or dog pack or wind
in the mind. I would have gone to the post office
but there was no post office.
At home your letters piled up.
One from an emptied seaside town.
One on paper cut from the pith of a mulberry tree.
The sun was out and the moon was out.
The boys were a thousand miles off.
I purchased rubber band flying machines.
I liked my body when I was alone and
I liked my body when I thought of them.
My difficult body.
In the photo they sent I could see the mess
in the living room, the one that I would enter
the way I might enter a messy myth,
the children butterflying in the municipal pool,
the man reciting mandolin Spanish.
In my marrow what had opened was hailstorm,
a flying branch, crushed honeysuckle.
The way home was five mountain ranges,
eleven states, three time zones.
The way home was a milky way of blackbirds.
The way home was strung out flares, unshoeing,
the lonely slots of Reno.
In earlier times many died crossing that distance.
The storm veered north and missed me.
On TV an insurance man
goes among twisted joists,
discerning wind damage from flood damage.
I read an article on over-mothering,
how it leads to long, gray days.
Better to permit cartoon violence.
The election is over.
The right people have won.
To avoid mass misery, Pascal says,
one must learn to sit alone in a room.
A poem comes to me,
but the words aren’t in the right order.
No children are mentioned.
On my three-lap jog around the block
I find a nest blown from a tree.
Inside a tiny bird skeleton,
same color as the grass.