the obligation to be happy

It is more onerous
than the rites of beauty
or housework, harder than love.
But you expect it of me casually,
the way you expect the sun
to come up, not in spite of rain
or clouds but because of them.And so I smile, as if my own fidelity
to sadness were a hidden vice—
that downward tug on my mouth,
my old suspicion that health
and love are brief irrelevancies,
no more than laughter in the warm dark
strangled at dawn.

Happiness. I try to hoist it
on my narrow shoulders again—
a knapsack heavy with gold coins.
I stumble around the house,
bump into things.
Only Midas himself
would understand.

(Linda Pastan, “The Obligation to be Happy” from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998, W. W. Norton & Company,  1998)

of flaps and patches

We are all framed of flaps and patches and of so shapeless and divers a contexture, that every piece and every moment playeth his part. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves, as there is between ourselves and others.

(Montaigne, Essays, translation by John Florio, 1634 edn, p. 187)


Photo by Sonia Szostak