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Michael Simms: The Happiness of Animals

When the soul-sickness takes me

And my mind is in an ugly place

And I resent other writers their success, I retire to my attic room

To look out the octagonal window at the gray street dead leaves carried by the wind I hear a storm coming


And I am no longer the ruler of my invisible kingdom

And incomparable ecstasy is no longer at my beckoning

And the honey of praise for my children is no longer on my lips

And I am not the man I planned to be nor is this the life I wanted

And my feet have forgotten the music and my hands have forgotten the smooth arcs

And the gift I once had is a black wand that goads me into self-loathing

And the small cruelties I’ve practiced seem large and the large irreparable

And even the innocence of William Blake cannot console me

My son says he’s cracked the code


Dad, when you put your head under the pillow you’re dreaming deeply and don’t bother you

And when you lie in bed staring at the ceiling you’re working on a poem and don’t bother you

And when you lie on your back with your arms across your face then we especially better not bother you


Then I hear bees and ghosts of bees swarming.

And I worry that I’ve become like Maureen the Madwoman of Mount Washington

Pursued by penguins and weasels through the streets

Screaming her shrill mantra Spider web spider web

Let down your hair repeated all day all night

Until Ed Shaw the beat cop tells her to move on move on


I pull the shades

I lie down in the dark and listen to the rain

I hear my daughter sitting on the carpet with crayons saying

The heart is two circles and a dot

The heart is two circles and a dot

And I remember Robert Herrick speaking of his lady’s spicy nest

The scent of my wife moving from room to room

I begin to believe the curve is the holiest of inventions

And my daughter asks Dad, how come all your friends are in AA or else some kind of animal?

And I listen to the Goldberg Variations until I swear I will never write another poem about an angel dragging a broken wing

From now on I will praise only the beauty of logarithms, how they are like elegant jewels on a golden chain

And I sing off-key until I realize I’ve almost figured out the equation of joy

And I write down everything the madwoman says, turning each line this way and that

And I call to my dog Winchester – we walk the forgotten streets in the last of the warm rain

We wade in the waist-high weeds of an abandoned lot where Winchester, a black lion in a peaceable kingdom grazes on the daffodil and the dandelion and the asphodel

And I consider the dirt under my shoe, how old it is

Older than arithmetic, older than spoons and mirrors and scissors

Perhaps as old as the happiness of animals

The happiness of a cow lying in a meadow chewing her memory

Of sunlight and grass

Chewing everything twice

Coughing it up, spitting it out

Like a poet


Copyright 2006. From The Happiness of Animals by Michael Simms, published by Monkey Sea Editions.

16 comments on “Michael Simms: The Happiness of Animals

  1. jessamayann
    December 17, 2018

    Reblogged this on Jessamayann and commented:
    This stuff is good. Check out Michael Simms poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jessamayann
    December 17, 2018

    Michael, you are a wonderful writer. So glad I found your poems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gerald Fleming
    September 3, 2018


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rosaly
    September 1, 2018

    You give us a deep place in the world Michael. Grateful for the poem. “old as the happiness of animals” and cows chewing twice –not for nothing. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nola Garrett
    September 1, 2018

    Thank you for posting this poem. You make me grateful to be a poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. carter7878
    September 1, 2018

    Self-importance is the danger facing every poem about the poet. This one falls prey
    to that kind of posturing. And resenting the success of bad poets like Rupi Kaur is healthy, not a sin against one’s soul.


  7. Andrea Hollander
    September 1, 2018

    Wonderful to see this poem from your 2006 collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Arlene Weiner
    September 1, 2018

    I love this poem! And–synchronicity–I sent you a message about posting poems by Blake before I read this today. –Arlene

    Liked by 1 person

  9. michaelgregoryaz
    September 1, 2018

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This entry was posted on September 1, 2018 by in Note from the Editor, Poetry and tagged , , , .

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