Despond: A Slough


I am a prodigy of despair.
In the womb I wailed the maternal night away,
gurgling like a monkfish under water.
My Francophile parents nicknamed me "Triste,"
although my schoolmates called me "Killjoy."
At age ten I wrote a book of epigrams
titled Despond: A Slough.
Sample: "Time teaches us that happiness is nothing
more than an early phase of sorrow."
During puberty my clothes were covered
in grass stains from the hours I spent
writhing in torment en plein air.
From that angle my father's lawn mower
made a grimace of "existential nausea,"
a cliché I knew could never replicate
the immanent sadness of inanimate objects.
In college I played the saxophone
because it had so many sad tone holes
over which my numb fingers glumly riffed
Coltrane's "I Want to Talk about You."
I always stopped in the middle of the cadenza
because I never wanted to talk about you.
Was there a "you" anyway?
Or were you always dead air?
I see your deep ungulate eyes filling with tears
as you ask me over and over, in a hundred
bars and cafés and museum galleries,
"Are you happy? Are you happy?"
Enough already! I'm happy as a blue juniper berry
plucked from an ancient juniper bush
that gets passed from hand to filthy hand
only to end up in a sentimental drunk's
sloshing martini glass.
Didn't you ever think the point of life
was to become the purest distillate of dolor,
to flee the psychiatrist's office in tears
and fling the free sample packs
of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors
down the nearest storm drain?
I thought not. Adieu, adieu, happy one,
already moving on to happier lovers
and lower-maintenance minds in uncluttered
apartments where the only thing blue
is the blue Bauhaus sofa
with the basset hound dozing on top.