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From “How It Adds Up”

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This is an excerpt from Tony Hoagland’s poem “How It Adds Up” (from What Narcissism Means to Me, Graywolf Press, 2003). This is a lovely poem about the delicacy of happiness and about the beauty of what is created by being human even when you’re not happy.

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.

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