Poem: “The Happiness Myth”

Do you bite the day or does the day bite you:
the sun like a gear wheel spinning with 
   hooked edges,
the sun a flaming pizza that greases your 
Tell me why you stopped drinking.
Are you in the oven or did you poke the witch
into the fire with her own iron-handled 
It’s not obvious that you should be sober.
Happiness spins like a drug lollipop,
vortex of primary paints where lick or 
   be licked
is only a simple choice for boys fighting.
The glass of euphoria fits in the palm of 
   your hand,
barely enough to drown your tongue-tip,
too much to empty.

                                 As for me,
I now wear my whalebone stays under 
   my ribs,
hoop skirts swishing in my womb like a 
   rustling hive.
Inside me is a thin person,
two policemen, a rhododendron, and a 
trying to get out. Sometimes I’m opened,
wrong-sized, put away badly folded,
tumbled on a pile of my discount fellows. 
   Sometimes I open
the door like an airplane depressurized, 
plastic meals dancing in the blue contrail.

This poem won an Honorable Mention in the 2007 Florence Poets Society contest and appears in their annual anthology, Silkworm. In writing it, I was inspired by poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht’s book The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong, an engaging history of cultural and philosophical prescriptions for a happy life, which have differed widely from one era to the next. Reading Hecht’s work always makes me happy.

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