Categories Poetry

WE ARE HAPPY, TONIGHT
by James C. Henderson

We have eaten and drank and talked and now
we sit on the veranda in the warm evening
enveloped by darkness
a blousy wind fluttering the candle flames.
We welcome the darkness and the trees
that close in around us
how they obscure us.
Frogs sing in ponds far off
insects zing about us.
They don’t care that we have no money
and, tonight, we don’t care, either.
The worry we still have is always there
like the air
but we are happy to have enough food
to have enough money to pay the interest—
for now.
We are happy tonight because the bankers are not here
nor the Founding Fathers to tell us
the story of how it is
or how it was supposed to be and isn’t.
No politician, prophet, or saint is present to instruct us
so we have another glass of wine.

None of them are here to read
from the holy parchment their vision for us:
a world incompatible with itself—
an economy at war with nature
a government at odds with its people
someone else’s dream, a cloak of reality
like the blue sky of day
that hides the stars and the galaxies—
a lie, a childish fantasy of growing up and getting
everything you want.
Tonight, we have no such ambition—
for a little while, anyway.
Here under the clear night sky
the earth is ours
which we once had and then decided wasn’t enough
and wanted what everyone else had
even though they had nothing.

Tonight we are rich with the earth and the stars
and the frogs and the insects.
The earth is no longer something outside of us—
a thing to exploit
but a living being whom we love.
We breathe its oxygen.
We feel its tides rise and fall within us.
Tonight, our great desire is to heal—
to take the dissociated parts of our lives
and be whole again.
Or to dissolve into the dark, to disappear
be absorbed by it, be absolved by it
faceless, bodiless, nameless—
part of every person everywhere and nowhere
without responsibility and without guilt.

Tonight, we want to stop playing the silly game
that says we could ever live apart from the earth
or from each other.
From now on, we are going to be part
of the immense oneness of the world.
From now on, we will no longer loot, burn, ruin, or conquer
the earth or its people.
Although for a long time we’ve taken more than our share
we are now going to eat simply, dress simply, live simply.
We are happy tonight
because we have committed to be good people
even though we are not sure what that means.
Everything you do is evil to someone.
We are happy tonight
because we believe the world is not full of potential enemies
but friends whom we have not yet met.
Perhaps this is naïve of us and we are as doomed
as we ever were.
Still, we are willing to try.

Like Kazantzakis:
We hope for nothing, we fear nothing, we are free.