It is more onerous
than the rites of beauty
or housework, harder than love.
But you expect it of me casually,
the way you expect the sun
to come up, not in spite of rain
or clouds but because of them.

And so I smile, as if my own fidelity
to sadness were a hidden vice—
that downward tug on my mouth,
my old suspicion that health
and love are brief irrelevancies,
no more than laughter in the warm dark
strangled at dawn.

Happiness. I try to hoist it
on my narrow shoulders again—
a knapsack heavy with gold coins.
I stumble around the house,   
bump into things.
Only Midas himself
would understand.

  • Linda Pastan, "The Obligation to be Happy" from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998, published by  W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.  Copyright © 1998 by Linda Pastan. Reprinted with the permission of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc.

  • Source: Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1998)

Poet Bio

What People are Saying

"I do Poetry Out Loud because the everyday me is very shy and easily stumbles over words, mangling meaning and botching simple conversations. Yet, when I recite poetry it is an opportunity for me to become someone else––an embodiment of the poem. Slowly, step by step, I think Poetry Out Loud is helping me to become a braver, more confident person, even if I still tremble when I get on stage."
Rose Horowitz
2016 ME POL Champion