Mental health day
Poetry makes nothing happen—W.H. Auden
Mid-morning in a coffeeshop
full of its weekday emptiness.
It’s March and bitter cold. I wear layers,
and I have draped my coat over my
shoulders anyway. My boots are intended to be
good to minus 20, but my feet are so cold
they have probably turned purple.
Only my hands are warm, exercised by
the weekday assumption of a normally
weekend-only occupation—the writing
and rewriting of poems by hand. And
my mind is warm, steeped in memory,
poetry, and memory turning into poetry.
And all of this is carefully steered away from
the immediate prickly memory of what
pushed me to take this mental health day.
This is not upchuck poetry, not the purging
of workaday frustration. This is a detour,
a tangent, a road that takes me to an entirely
other place. It compels attention to itself,
removes me from the unpeaceful pressures
of a job that defeats commitment
and is therefore just a job.
So that when I emerge into consciousness
of time and place, I am lifted, the ragged
places smoothed to calm, and a glow
within me to defeat the bitterest chill.
If poetry makes nothing happen in the larger
world, it does make this happen, this small
individual thing, this healing.