Happy times

American Life in Poetry

Albert Gold­barth​’s imag­i­na­tion has the unique pen­chant for a cer­tain absur­dist insis­tence on the delight we can derive from strange­ness. The poet hears his wife singing and thinks of a horse’s skull. This seems like a pre­lude to inti­ma­tions of mor­tal­i­ty (the poem’s title is, after all, ​“Tough Day: Clo­sure”), but then, what hap­pens is not quite humor, but dogged joy, ​“as if the brain/​is deter­mined to sing and fly.” And the image that stays with me is this one, a bird ris­ing out of a horse’s skull. 

Tough Day: Closure

Upstairs, in the bath, my wife

is humming some made-up tune

in which the mood of a zoned-out

happiness willfully prevails.

Why do I suddenly think of the horse skull

that I saw last year in the countryside?

Because a bird rose out of it,

as if the brain

is determined to sing and fly,

the brain is determined to sing and fly

no matter what.