Last night I dreamt of the perfect opening line
to a poem that would, I had no doubt, piece
back together the crumbling world. It was a line
that drew you in, breathless, that made you drop
everything—coffee, that online shopping cart
one click from arriving at your door—and pay
attention, the way, when I was little and living
in a rainless place, I would long for the clink
of rain on roof. Yesterday was my son’s fourth
birthday. We had a bouncy house, petting zoo,
piñata, stood around in a light drizzle and watched
the kids play, unaware of the crumbling world.
What if they are not ignorant but right? What stops
us from dropping our sorrow, the weight of concern
for the present, the future: the weight of regret?
After the presents had been opened, after my son
was dreaming his child-dreams—of rain? of playtime? —
after we put away the toys he’ll soon grow tired of, threw
away pounds of garbage, I thought of the children who
have no toys, who go to sleep hungry, or afraid of bombs
or beatings, children for whom a bedtime story is enough.
For my birthday this year, my parents asked what I wanted
and for weeks I thought of nothing but my wants. What I
chose doesn’t matter; by the time I got it I wanted something
else. But my dream-poem’s closing line was about pinecones
nestled in the rain-soaked earth, and the title was Happiness.