'Happy Ideas' by Mary Szybist
I had the happy idea to suspend some blue globes in the air
and watch them pop.
I had the happy idea to put my little copper horse on the shelf so we could stare at each other all evening.
I had the happy idea to create a void in myself.
Then to call it natural.
Then to call it supernatural.
I had the happy idea to wrap a blue scarf around my head and spin.
I had the happy idea that somewhere a child was being born who was nothing like Helen or Jesus except in the sense of changing everything.
I had the happy idea that someday I would find both pleasure and punishment, that I would know them and feel them,
and that, until I did, it would be almost as good to pretend.
I had the happy idea to string blue lights from a tree and watch them glow.
I had the happy idea to call myself happy.
I had the happy idea that the dog digging a hole in the yard in the twilight had his nose deep in mold-life.
I had the happy idea that what I do not understand is more real than what I do
and then the happier idea to buckle myself into two blue velvet shoes.
I had the happy idea to polish the reflecting glass and say
hello to my own blue soul. Hello, blue soul. Hello.
It was my happiest idea.
Let’s get fired up! said the dad. His daughters liked
their beds. What do I have to do to get you
motivated dad asked. The thing about
his daughters was they hadn’t left
their beds for some while. Are any of you girls
up there yelled dad. Are any of you girls
still alive? It was a question he should have asked
a bit earlier. The hardest questions sometimes
to say aloud are important. He warned I will give you
to the count of ten. There were at least ten
daughters though more than ten beds the problem
was this the dad realized. Was he let them
have abundance. He would fix that right up
starting now. I will actually only give you
to the count of five he yelled nothing moved
upstairs. Do I have to burn down the house
he called out do I have to make
marshmallows of the pretty white
beds you love more than dear dad?
Throat dry he went and drank
water sure not to leave any left over
in the glass because otherwise
his daughters might put out against his wishes
the fire he threatened to start. He wasn’t sure
when he’d last seen a daughter. Their bodies
and heads were covered fully with sheets
in some but not all of the beds. Which beds
and which rooms and which daughter’s heads
were which the dad wondered. None of them
would get up or look different than any other
one when their bodies and faces were covered
up upstairs in beds. Let’s get fired up!
the dad yelled. He found himself yelling still.
- Alissa Nutting
More Pleasant Adventures
The first year was like icing.
Then the cake started to show through.
Which was fine, too, except you forget the direction you’re taking.
Suddenly you are interested in some new thing
And can’t tell how you got here. Then there is confusion
Even out of happiness, like a smoke—
The words get heavy, some topple over, you break others.
And outlines disappear once again.
Heck, it’s anybody’s story,
A sentimental journey—“gonna take a sentimental journey,”
And we do, but you wake up under the table of a dream:
You are that dream, and it is the seventh layer of you.
We haven’t moved an inch, and everything has changed.
We are somewhere near a tennis court at night.
We get lost in life, but life knows where we are.
We can always be found with our associates.
Haven’t you always wanted to curl up like a dog and go to sleep like a dog?
In the rash of partings and dyings (the new twist),
There’s also room for breaking out of living.
Whatever happens will be quite ingenious.
No acre but will resume being disputed now,
And paintings are one thing we never seem to run out of.
- John Ashbery
You can hear him telling the dog that one broken heart
deserves a heart that has been differently broken.
I had that dream in New York City. Times Square
looks like America throwing up on itself.
I want to hold its hair back.
XIII | V: 9:23 PM
the first time I fell in love
he thought my poetry was amazing
I thought his drug problem
was something I could understand
there was something safe
to be found in people who weren’t.
the first time I had sex
he thought I was an escape, he said
he said too much
I thought about it all
there was something complex
to be loved in people who were lost.
I think there’s much to be said
about what my thoughts say
and what his words didn’t
and how what is said sometimes
involves no thinking at all
- Betty Wang
That Now Are Wild and Do Not Remember
Where did you go to, when you went away?
It is as if you step by step were going
Someplace elsewhere into some other range
Of speaking, that I had no gift for speaking,
Knowing nothing of the language of that place
To which you went with naked foot at night
Into the wilderness there elsewhere in the bed,
Elsewhere somewhere in the house beyond my seeking.
I have been so dislanguaged by what happened
I cannot speak the words that somewhere you
Maybe were speaking to others where you went.
Maybe they talk together where they are
Restlessly wandering, along the shore,
Waiting for a way to cross the river.
At the end of August, when all
The letters of the alphabet are waiting,
You drop a teabag in a cup.
The same few letters making many different words,
The same words meaning different things.
Often you’ve rearranged them on the surface of the fridge.
Without the surface
They’re repulsed by one another.
Here are the letters.
The tea is in your cup.
At the end of August, the mind
Is neither the pokeweed piercing the grass
Nor the grass itself.
As Tony Cook says in The Biology of Terrestrial Mollusks
The right thing to do is nothing, the place
A place of concealment,
And the time as often as possible.
by James Longenbach, 2012
At North Farm
Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through narrow passes.
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?
Hardly anything grows here,
Yet the granaries are bursting with meal,
The sacks of meal piled to the rafters.
The streams run with sweetness, fattening fish;
Birds darken the sky. Is it enough
That the dish of milk is set out at night,
That we think of him sometimes,
Sometimes and always, with mixed feelings?
by John Ashbery, 1984
wrap their babies in the American flag,
feed them mashed hotdogs and apple pie,
name them Bill and Daisy,
buy them blonde dolls that blink blue
eyes or a football and tiny cleats
before the baby can even walk,
speak to them in thick English,
hallo, babee, hallo,
whisper in Spanish or Polish
when the babies sleep, whisper
in a dark parent bed, that dark
parent fear, “Will they like
our boy, our girl, our fine American
boy, our fine American girl?”
— Pat Mora
I gave myself excuses.
This is for my pain—
and this, and this.
Pain. My pain.
All so I might
twice a month
get on a train
to witness yours.
— John Freeman
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago
They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
-T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland