Where Sadness Lives

posted Jan 31, 2012

The mural on the café’s west wall
—a fantastical underwater scene.
On the left a chorus line of shrimp
wearing top hats, sporting canes
(think Mr. Peanut but pink)
though the last in the line
looks wistful, makes me feel
sad when I look at him
the pang increasing
when Susan tells me
he bears an uncanny likeness
to her great uncle Nicky.
I know you were probably
expecting something real—
a secret life I learned about
only after someone died
or the golden retriever
tied outside the supermarket
and struggling, its legs tangled
in a worn leather leash—
but I seem to see suffering
even in the animated dog
who lives in my computer,
searches for files I’ve misplaced.
When he digs and scratches
and wags his tail, then looks up at me
so wanting to please
I feel badly for replying “No”
to the question “Did you find
what you were looking for?”
The silver lining: we hold on
to triumph where it can be found—
the homing pigeon named Marty
who broke his wing in a 300-mile race
yet returned to his owner
on foot two weeks later.
The paraplegic veteran
whom the scientists are studying.
They’ve hooked wires to his brain
so he can turn the television on
and off with just his thoughts.
And so it goes, energy expended,
much of it on the pursuit
of happiness, though it surprised me
at last week’s symposium
to hear the physician say that the human act
requiring the most energy is dying.

Marjorie Manwaring lives in Seattle, where she is a freelance writer and editor, and the co-editor of the online poetry and art journal DMQ Review. She has a chapbook forthcoming this year from Dancing Girl Press, and a full-length poetry collection due in 2013 from Mayapple Press. Find out more from her website.

We’ve published five more poems by Manwaring: “Driving Across the University Bridge I Think About the Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg,” “Baton,” “Levitation,” “Snow Day,” and “Musée Mécanique.”