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.
—from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Rebekah Remington: “I started writing poetry in high school when I discovered the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay in the school library. I think I renewed her Collected Poems almost every week of my entire senior year. Recently I’ve been reading Frank Bidart, Jennifer Grotz, and Richmond Lattimore’s translations of Aeschylus. So I guess my taste has broadened a bit. I wrote ‘Happiness Severity Index’ on a day when I was feeling slightly whiny.”