I wasn’t the only drunk reaching
for Kleenex as short Arnold
on the foot-high platform
choked the wild sound
rising in his throat. He was filled
and pouring joy like anguish.
Tears drew light to his face.
Two hundred of us in the room
and none coughed or shuffled
or scraped a metal chair
as he said how he saw
clear sky spreading above him
and a thing like a lead band
that snapped and freed his chest.
I didn’t drift for once or argue
or make lists for later.
I let the hush wrap me,
felt how John was near me,
Steve across the big room.
I saw how Mary lifted her chin,
how Sybil suffered in her bloated flesh,
her unreadable lipstick smile.
For a moment all was as it should be.
Everyone in the room knew it.
I think so. It wasn’t some dream.
Harsh blues, heads nodding
amen—not even that. How
to explain it. I wish you’d been there.
(From My Body: New and Selected Poems, copyright © 2007 by Joan Larkin. Published by Hanging Loose Press, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217, http://www.hangingloosepress.com. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any medium, print or electronic, without the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews.)