In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Satisfaction
  • David Kirby (bio)

Barbara says, “Don’t let me forget to be happy about such-and-so”: poem accepted, headstand in the middle of the room instead of against

the wall, big-thumbs-up teaching evaluation, note from a long-lost friend. This is the same Barbara who snuggles up behind me at night as I say,

“Ummm,” which is when she says, “How do you know it’s me and not the clown who lives under the bed?” and I scream so loudly I wake

the neighbors, who deserve to be woken, the shits, since they’re the ones who lopped a twenty-foot branch off our two-hundred-year-old

oak tree, though of course I am more delighted than scared to have such a fun wife. Why is it so hard for us to be happy? I know, because

life stinks. Lear says to Cordelia, “Stay a little,” but it’s too late: he’s speaking to her lifeless body, and he’s already lost his mind.

There’s no joy like that of a kid, of course. One thing I’ve learned from riding around the park near my house is that if there’s a kid

on a bicycle and you point and say, “I’ll race you to that lamppost,” every one of them will hunch over their handlebars and start pedaling

as though their little lives depended on it. Then there’s young man’s love, all jizz and ardor. When Apollo chases Daphne and she turns

into a tree, he still loves her, and when he places his hand against the trunk, he feels her heart beating beneath the bark and embraces

the branches as if they were limbs and kisses the wood, though even as a tree, she shrinks from those kisses. Apollo should have

cooled his jets, n’est-ce pas? It says right here in the New York Times that “no matter how much in love you are at 20, there’s a whole

new definition of love that awaits you at 65, and if you knew what it was when you were 20, you’d spend your life being impatient,” [End Page 91]

and if the Times doesn’t know, who does? After all, it’s the newspaper of record. Time does make you see things differently: can you imagine

how Niccolò Polo felt when he saw Venice after seventeen years in the court of the Great Kublai? All that time he’d been with people who were nice,

sure, but they didn’t look like him, talk like him, eat the food he ate, and now he’s in the Piazza San Marco again, having a drink

with friends, buying a cone of roasted nuts, turning to look at a woman who may have been his lover once and is fat now and missing a tooth

but still beautiful. And sometimes we’re sad when we thought we’d be happy: heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano cried after

he defeated the aging Joe Louis because he was glad he’d won, but he knew he’d beaten an old man. No wonder we need someone

to remind us to be happy, such as Barbara or German poet, philosopher, and playwright Friedrich Schiller, author of the “Ode to Joy” best known

for providing the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and whose words address Joy, that daughter of Elysium whose shrine

we enter fire-drunk because her magic binds again what custom’s sword had parted, making beggars brothers to princes! Joy drives the wheels

in the great clock of worlds, says Schiller, lures flowers from their buds, suns from the firmament! Joy rolls spheres in the spaces that the seer’s

telescope does not know, she bubbles in the cup whence even cannibals drink gentleness! Fly from your perches, brothers, when that cup is passed,

and let the foam spray to the heavens—uh-oh, Schiller’s sounding like Apollo there, isn’t he, reader? Yet joy abounds. There’s no end to it.

“All rivers flow into the sea,” says Ecclesiastes, “yet the sea is not full,” though we complain again and again that it...


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