The spirit keeps wanting to float off into Italian frescoes,
dissolve into acacias,
fall lightly like dust into the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile the body,
tired mule, pushes the grocery cart through Perishables.
The math is simple:
spirit + body = a sadness machine.
Subtract either spirit or body and you’re left
with a story
problem for actuaries.
Guillotines make permanent separation a snap.
Ditto famines and plagues,
ditto waves if you try to cross
the ocean without holding fast to a floating object.
But how to keep the machine happy—
supply it with live clams and dead auteurs?
Dance it through corn mazes
in the Midwest? An owner’s manual
would help, but how does one translate
the Upanishads of the clavicle,
and where do you add oil in a sadness machine?
Once, in a San José park, on vacation, I asked
my daughter, Where are we?
She looked up at me: My dolly sits
on mine lap, I sit on yours lap, you sit
on the chair’s lap, the chair sits
on the world’s lap. There are a million
ways to say California. Only a few promise rest.
Lance Larsen teaches at Brigham Young University, where he serves as poetry editor of Literature and Belief. His third collection of poems is due out this year from University of Tampa Press. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Raritan, The Gettysburg Review, AGNI, Orion, The Iowa Review, FIELD, Brevity, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. He has received a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize and an NEA fellowship in poetry. (updated 10/2008)