Saturday, April 11, 2020

Happiness by Yusef Komunyakaa


When I’d win the fight
Over whose turn it was,
I sat on the top doorstep,
Grinning out into the Fourth
Of July, turning the freezer
Handle. I rocked to a tune
In my head, satisfied
I could hear Satchmo’s horn
On his birthday. “Dippermouth
Blues.” Hydrangeas bloomed
Along the sidewalks & fence.
The freezer’s wooden tub
Was packed with ice & salt,
Around a shiny cylinder
Filled with custard & peach
Slices. Caught up in the rhythm
Till an ache crawled
My arms. Fortissimo. Fire-
Works. The swim hole dynamited
A few days earlier, & voices
Rushed up now like loud
Hosannas. Hundreds of lanes
Snaked through oaks, wild fruit
& honeysuckle. Baskets overflowed
The bank. Big boys whistled at girls
& swandived from the tallest trees.
Small boys on the plankwalk
Jostled each other, springing up
& down like pogo sticks.
I turned the handle faster,
But the goat in the tree
Remained: Daddy Red forced
Me to stroke the throat
Before his butcher knife
Caught the sunlight.
The cry was a child’s.
Silence belonged to gods.
There was no paradise, no
Cakewalk for demons hidden
In grass. Old Lazy Bones
Shook out his limbs & pinwheeled
A dustdevil’s foxtrot. The air
Sweetened with the scent of goat
Cooking over a pit,
& the icecream hardened
The hurt in my arms
Made me happy.

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