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.

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