Monday, March 21, 2016


Happiness Anonymous

Why don't you ever smile? Roger's wife complains.
She acts, he grouses, as if she'd just found him cheating.
His sons, on principle, refuse to forgive him too:
who wants a father who can't watch the news without crying?
Yes, kids are abducted into slavery in Sudan,
but, Roger's wife likes to remind him,
this is Levittown, PA. No soldiers
are disemboweling anyone on Sycamore Drive today.

Last week Sylvia's Tyler took his first wobbly steps
and tottered before her like a drunk
who suddenly grows aware he's got a left and a right side
and needs to persuade them to take turns
and share this tipsy planet. Babysitting's difficult
now I'm off heroin
. She can't stop imagining
all that's waiting to harm her grandson.

As if the sun's one true purpose were to tempt him
to throw off the years of sobriety,
Stefan sits with his back to windows. At five
he had made the mistake of playing
too long and, when he got home, found his mother
in a corner, one hand clutching the other like a wounded bird.
He loosened her fist from around the broken glass.

Jesse's only seventeen but he's already counting the hours
he has left to live. Every day he does the math
over again: all that time wasted taking out trash
or trying to comb a part into his hair
or persuading x to equal y. On a day this sunny,
in a land noticeably free of pestilence and plague,
you'd have to be ingenious to find anything to fret about,
but Jesse succeeds.

Why I haven't Killed Myself Yet
It's too messy. I know this for a fact,
having cleaned up after my friend
who, once he'd stabbed himself the first time,
couldn't stop. Clearly he hadn't
realized the squalor he'd leave, blood
on curtains, sheets, and tub.
Suicide takes a single-mindedness I lack.
It's not that I've never been tempted,
or haven't tried,
but by the twentieth pill my mind begins to wander:
who'll pick up my granddaughter from soccer practice,
switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer,
clean the cats' litter box?
My Siamese circle me as I lie on the kitchen floor.
One rubs her head against my chin.
One crawls up on my chest and starts purring.
Yin and Yang don't care about my existential crisis,
they just want dinner.
My friend did what he had to, and then I had to
scour his whole apartment
before his son and ex-wife opened the front door.
Carpet ruined, even the windows smeared.
No matter how diligently I scrubbed and mopped,
I missed some stains. Some went too deep.

by Chris Bursk
in volume 4 issue 2

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