Shannon Castleton

He Asks Why I Can’t Get My Mind around Happiness
by Shannon Castleton

Because when I turn to a window, there’s always something in the air,
not falling—a leaf in a current, a wisp of cotton; green finches scissor by
like the pulse on a heart monitor, and you know
it will all drop somewhere. Like tiptoeing a tightrope.
Like: in the months before the retriever died,
he rested his giant head in my lap, just waiting.

Any minute, another’s loss could be the loss you are facing—
the mother whose daughter’s heart failed in a plane
above DisneyWorld. For all of that morning,
the mother’s left eye had been twitching,
which meant, she blogged later, that an end was approaching.

Happiness forgets: An end is approaching.
In rain, it imagines girls in braids, emptying sacks of sugar.
It overlooks the water overflowing the creek, the two-year-old’s feet
sunk deep in the timothy. It views the past as straight rows
in a garden, the future an orchard. It thinks it sees clover
and swans in the cumulous. The mind

starts putting out daisies. In dreams, your grandmother
appears with your glasses. You toss the word beautiful around
like confetti, but inevitably you will have to sweep up.
I say you, but you know I mean me. I grow careless.

Evenings, when hosts of geese flood the sky
as if carrying pleas to the other-world, I neglect
to pray for more time, for every last love to stay safe.
I lie on my back in the grass and contemplate lift
and wingspan, until all the kids skip out
to the yard, and we lie in a row with our elbows hooked.
I think this could go on forever.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 21, Issue 3.

Shannon CastletonShannon Castleton’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as The Cortland Review, Folio, Literature and Belief, and Sycamore Review. She is a graduate of The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and lives with her family in Pennsylvania.

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