Jul. 26, 2009
It was Swami Satchadananda who set her straight.
You are the source of your own happiness, he told her
out of the blue, looking her straight in the eye
and tapping it into her chest.
Then came the bridegroom, pressing his suit.
Are you capable of happiness? he quizzed her.
This was serious. He had put it to the test.
She checked the box marked Yes.
A choice. A deliverance.
All this came as a great surprise
to one who had pressed her face against the glass.
Happiness had passed her by like the boys on their flexible flyers.
It was a shock to have it show up now like her mother in a nightgown
standing on the schoolbus steps waving a lost lunch.
Once, in the middle of the night, lightning had struck the iron lamp
on her desk, summoning her father to the threshold like Zeus.
If happiness came at all, she thought it might come like that,
a thunderclap that would strike hard,
or bounce around on the ground like pearls and be briefly lost.
The wonder was that it would have so little to do with sex
or God; be more like a game of connect-the-dots or
pick-up-sticks she might have played with a friend
sitting cross-legged on the bare wooden floor.
That it would return her to the peace of pebbles in her father’s yard
where she had played as a child under the leafy ears of the oaks;
to a sky the ragman tented with his cry each spring
restoring columbine and larkspur to the fieldstone wall.
That maybe -- ah, now here’s a thought -- it had been there all along,
invisible above the clouds, a plane
that went on humming on a summer afternoon,
droning on over the bounce of a red rubber ball,
the crash of jacks on gray plank boards,
the perfect ring a tumbler left, lifted from the silt.
That it would forgive the day she she squatted in the shade
of Mrs. C’s garden, too busy to run indoors,
thinking that the little pile she’d left
steaming under a still-swaying branch of bleeding heart
was soft and brown and beautiful as the chestnut nose on the
Jean Feraca is host and executive producer of Wisconsin Public Radio's Here on
Earth: Radio without Borders and an award winning poet and memoirist. Her most recent book is I Hear Voices, which received the Council for Wisconsin Writers Kenneth Kingery/August Derleth Nonfiction Book Award. "Happiness" was previously published in Rendering Paradise (Parallel Press, Madison WI).