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Imagine Sisyphus Happy by Nicole Sealey

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MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM

1.
I remember when I was in one of the deepest pits I’ve ever been. The more I try to climb back up the more I unearth and dig my own grave. I’ve been told to shrug it off leave it up to God it will pass why can’t you just let it go think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts. I was unable to do any of these and felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I was scattered, erratic. I didn’t speak for months. The days were almost unbearable. I couldn’t find the wound.

2.
What is the force that makes the world move, I asked a friend. I want that, I said. That which gives us cherry blossoms, and the stars. That which allows for the tiny tickle under my lungs until laughter is bursting forth, an explosion of joy.

3.
I’ve been thinking of all the roads we took to get here. What stories we have in our pockets, what aches we carry. Do you think this was always here somehow, this place, for us?

4.
Listen: that reservoir upon which happiness flows—it is the same place which let me embrace the monster clawing at her face. It let me sit at the bottom of the well where most of my howls were born, where I wailed until the light came.

 

Imagine Sisyphus Happy
Nicole Sealey

Give me tonight to be inconsolable.
so the death drive does not declare

itself, so the moonlight does not convince
sunrise. I was born before sunrise—

when morning masquerades as night,
the temperature of blood, quivering

like a mouth in mourning. How do we
author our gentle birth, the height

we were—were we gods rolling stars across
a sundog sky, the same as scarabs?

We fit somewhere between god
and mineral, angel and animal,

believing a thing as sacred as the sun rises
and falls like an ordinary beast.

Deer sniff lifeless fawns before leaving,
elephants encircle the skulls and tusks

of their dead—none wanting to leave
the bones behind, none knowing

their leave will lessen the loss. But birds
pluck their own feathers, dogs

lick themselves to wound. Allow me this
luxury. Give me tonight to cut

and salt the open. Give me a shovel
to uproot the mandrake and listen

for its scream. Give me a hard face that toils
so closely with stone, it is itself

stone. I promise to enter the flesh again.
I promise to circle to ascend.

I promise to be happy tomorrow.

 

endnotes

This poem appeared in Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey, published by Ecco, 2017. Shared here with profound gratitude.

 

Read more works by Nicole SealeyFind books by this poet • Or view my library

 

Explore poems in pursuit of: mortalitygriefliving • Or browse the index

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