The Pursuit of Happiness


. . . certain unalienable rights . . . among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ – Thomas Jefferson, The American Declaration of Independence, 1776

But he only said
you had a right to chase it:
he never mentioned

catching it up.
Like that coyote,
forever in pursuit

of the road-runner,
forever unpacking
the latest gadget

from Acme, sure
it’ll work, this time,
you walk, unerring,

off cliff edges,
into tunnels that echo
with oncoming trains.

The gun backfires; the fuse
is a simmering dud,
till you pick it up.

All feet but yours
escape the traps.
You wait, exactly

where the rock will fall,
watching, far off,
the dust of your dreams:

then it’s back
to the Sears & Roebuck
for another miracle.

And if you caught it,
if you ever did,
wouldn’t it taste stringy,

all muscle and disappointment,
and what would you do
with the rest of your life?

from The Beautiful Lie (Seren, 2002), © Sheenagh 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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