It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.
"So Much Happiness" from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, copyright © 1995. Reprinted with the permission of Far Corner Books.
There's a happiness, a joy in one soul, that's been buried alive in everyone and forgotten. It isn't your barroom joke or tender, intimate humor or affections of friendliness or big, bright pun. They're the surviving survivors of what happened when happiness was buried alive, when it no longer looked out of today's eyes, and doesn't even manifest when one of us dies, we just walk away from everything, alone with what's left of us, going on being human beings without being human, without that happiness.
Reprinted from Front Lines by permission of City Lights Books. Copyright © 2002 by Jack Hirschman. All rights reserved.
A curtain bellying like a pregnant cloud, warm white light refracted through a tumbler of peat-smoked scotch— a scorcher of a day at cooling end, with stupendous berries to eat in lieu of supper, the scoffed pint box of blueberries chased by a half of cantaloupe & Maytag blue cheese spread across the remains of last night's baguette— a plural happiness—I feel encouraged for all within range—even the hang-gliding error that sent Jesus spiraling down to earth seems a commitment. Tomorrow we'll go to Alison's wedding, who at age 2 & 3/4 attended our wedding 26 years ago, her blond curls a mystery to be held up & photographed between her mother & father dark-haired Diane & Larry— in the riddle of our recessive genes once in a while something surprising waits for anybody out & about. Like hearing for the first time a blind preacher or waking in a Gros Vent campground south of Jenny Lake, the best happiness is always accidental,—& why not? I was going to say something about boundlessness back there (or was it getting gassed I meant?), but that isn't it exactly either. Tho it is pretty close. Close enough. And real. Real enough, & sure. God it felt good to heat water on a primus stove while yawning and to wash my face in cold Gros Vent & love Michaela.
Copyright © 2011 by David Rivard. Reprinted from Otherwise Elsewhere with the permission of Graywolf Press.
was when the
the whole city
& we drove north
to our friend’s
where she had
power & we
later we stayed
in the darkened
apt. you sick
in bed & me
by candle light
in thin blue
your neighbor had
a generator &
after a while
we had a little
bit of light
I walked the
dog & you
a little bit
we sat on a stoop
one day in the
we had very little
money. enough for
a strong cappuccino
which we shared
sitting there &
city was lit.
Copyright © 2014 by Eileen Myles. Used with permission of the author.
Some people are not destined for happiness,
and I may be one of them.
You see, in certain parts of the world where
I have been and now live,
at least in my dreams, happiness is only
granted to a woman
who leaves a dish of mashed peas out in
the moonlight overnight.
But superstition does not name what moon
phase or if one must
eat the peas. Instructions too vague.
Peas uneaten. Moon dark.
No happiness yet. I’d ask my nana if she
were still here,
but she was the one who gauged oven heat
with a bent elbow
and said happiness was to bake a cake
Copyright © 2018 Susan Terris. Reprinted with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Autumn 2018.
Our ancestors in the earth are not
Ashamed of us. The strong smell
Of dirt, the delirious rabbits, the
Clocks are all disappearing. A
Prehistoric gift acquires the smell
Of salt. I grasp onto winter’s tail.
Some water plants are lying around.
Smell & taste, I have had good
Luck in love. The slippery roads,
The capricious numbers on a blazing
Road, meet me at the forest’s edge
Where we can go with our legs
Lopped off, strangers to the clean
Teeth and tongue of outward happiness.
Copyright © 2015 by Noelle Kocot. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.