A Poem by Taije Silverman

Our Happy Life

I do. Whammo.
 — Dean Young

Because it is a heaviness and takes only the shape of flesh.
Because I never remember what we paid for the house
or how to use the word tautology.
Because in the mornings we speak to it through nicknames
that morph into other nicknames
and rhyme with each other and need nothing else.
Because coffee seems essential and is not,
because the survival of the hydrangea seems essential and is not.
Because the box of a television replaced the box of a dollhouse
where a tiny and serious person had been laid on a bed
or leaned to bake cake at a stove with the same
basic proportions as those of a travel-size padlock.
Because proportion had been stirred into the batter,
because the batter was lumpy but the afternoon late
and we had to eat, didn’t we, put the pan in the oven, set the timer.
Because proportion had volunteered
to be sacrificed; someone after all had to think of the village
or of the children or of the future or of the good of the whole.
Because the word or had no place in the dollhouse
and the sacrifice of proportion had been basically
bloodless, despite its immutable flesh shape.
Because I am not the only one to mistake where for who I am,
the English garden gone coarse with the gray hair of weeds
and the sea beyond it like a doubt
or the heat panicked and climbing off parked cars
and not one shuddering coil would even think to be sacrificed
for the sake of the little ones, the innocent in their strollers.
Because I am not the only one.
Because the strollers seemed mockingly expensive
and the house nothing, the house practically free.
Because the word practically slid shut over the sea
like a smell of wood glue.
Tautology: the study of dragonflies mating,
tautology: the tenderness I felt for him asleep.
Because I am not the only one, said the dollhouse to the dollhouse, or
do you take this, yes I take this, or we had to eat, didn’t we
and the shows we would watch about well-meant vampires
were almost constantly being recorded.
The premise of x=x filled the garden, improbable, yes,
but for a moment expected
and then the sea we didn’t see, and then the heaviness
well beyond measure.
Take me, said proportion to the minotaur or the sun god
or to the blade like pure air at the margin of the knife.

Taije Silverman’s first book, Houses Are Fields, was published by LSU Press in 2009. Her poems and translations from the Italian appear in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Nation, The Best American Poetry 2016, and elsewhere. She has received a Fulbright Scholarship and an Emory University Poetry Fellowship, and currently teaches poetry and translation at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.