How It Adds Up

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There was the day we swam in a river, a lake, and an ocean. 
And the day I quit the job my father got me. 
And the day I stood outside a door, 
and listened to my girlfriend making love 
to someone obviously not me, inside, 

and I felt strange because I didn’t care. 

There was the morning I was born, 
and the year I was a loser, 
and the night I was the winner of the prize 
for which the audience applauded. 

Then there was someone else I met, 
whose face and voice I can’t forget, 
and the memory of her 
is like a jail I’m trapped inside, 

or maybe she is something I just use 
 to hold my real life at a distance.

Happiness, Joe says, is a wild red flower 
  plucked from a river of lava 
and held aloft on a tightrope 
  strung between two scrawny trees 
above a canyon 
  in a manic-depressive windstorm.

Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it—, 

And when you do, you will keep looking for it 
everywhere, for years, 
while right behind you, 
the footprints you are leaving 

will look like notes 
 of a crazy song.

© Tony Hoagland