How It Adds Up by Tony Hoagland
There was the day we swam in a river, a lake, and an ocean.
And the day I quit the job my father got me.
And the day I stood outside a door,
and listened to my girlfriend making love
to someone obviously not me, inside,
and I felt strange because I didn’t care.
There was the morning I was born,
and the year I was a loser,
and the night I was the winner of the prize
for which the audience applauded.
Then there was someone else I met,
whose face and voice I can’t forget,
and the memory of her
is like a jail I’m trapped inside,
or maybe she is something I just use
to hold my real life at a distance.
Happiness, Joe says, is a wild red flower
plucked from a river of lava
and held aloft on a tightrope
strung between two scrawny trees
above a canyon
in a manic-depressive windstorm.
Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it—,
And when you do, you will keep looking for it
everywhere, for years,
while right behind you,
the footprints you are leaving
will look like notes
of a crazy song.