“Happiness Severity Index” by Rebekah Remington

Rebekah Remington


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.”

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