NOT THAT HAPPINESS
Not bluebirds nesting in a wooden box
nailed to your picket fence.
No geraniums in the planter, but yarrow
where the trees begin, hawkweed
in a clearing near the black locust
and loosestrife—how you are helpless
against its beauty—everywhere
along the creek. No friends anymore
who ask about dinner, but a boy who woke
last week, singing counterpoint
to the wrens. To read, We are without
consolation or excuse, and remember
a sack of peaches from a roadside stand;
hunger the day you stopped for them.
Maxine Sullivan singing “Blue Skies.”
In winter, lullabies sung for the dead.
The shoulder roast simmering in red wine
with potatoes and sweet onions
on a day when the rain begins; your heart
sliding toward the sinkhole of November.
Who is not captive to some small happiness?
To love a field you can never own—the pink mist
of knapweed, the blue of chicory.
Or the heron that settles in the neighbor’s pond
and croaks through the last of your dreams.
You startle awake, patting your head, glad
that you are not a minnow, darting
among the muddy reeds. How it comes around,
this happiness, like a landlord sniffing out the rent.
Not what you ordered—pennywhistles, cellophane hats,
those hand-crank noisemakers—but the happiness
that finds you, scrawls a receipt, says,
“You paid for this,” whatever happiness is.
"Not That Happiness" originally appeared in The Greensboro Review, and won the 2006 Greensboro Review Literary Award in Poetry. It also appears in Figured Dark (University of Arkansas Press, 2007)