Joy Museum

by Mia Nelson

Content warning: references to suicide

Even after it all, I want to live so badly
that I lock the doors, I turn the gas stove off
and lift my head from the bathwater.
I return the insignificant calls and write letters
to thank other people for living too, for waking up early
and making bread that rises everyday just like
the last. A year ago, London appointed a minister of
loneliness when it was discovered some people went
days without speaking. I no longer have to imagine it.
Still, I rouse myself to waking in the middle of the night
because even after it all, there are the sounds of a whole
insect night time bristling with light in the cool dark.
There are still things worth sobbing to sleep over,
things worth singing marigolds under your breath.
I say a rusty hallelujah for the boy who writes me letters
that come in the blue mailbox and say it has always been
you. I kiss my mother and do the dishes with warm water
and no gloves. I remember that the shortest sentence in the Bible
is Jesus wept and when that makes me want to burn the eggs
I remember that the shortest sentence in English is I am. And
we go on. We wade in the water and count infants’ toes and flirt
over the internet. We appoint ministers for our invisible wounds,
we say hello from across the street when before
we might not have said anything at all.
This is the work of living, of promising
every belabored day to tilt our faces to the sky,
to believe we will survive this,
to not speak of the rapture or even rupture, to not poke
the over-tender skins of peaches because it is easy to want to make
something yield. Everything that is not dying is being set free,
so I let the wind sneak under my dress and make laundry of it all.
I order the larger coffee and am alive all day, I make my sweet
boy across the country fall asleep with the phone next to his mouth
just to listen to those insistent, unconscious soldiers of breath
who love us so much they don’t care what we want,
they just want to go on riding a red bike down an asphalt hill at dusk,
they want to touch a dog’s nose with theirs and see old people in gardening hats
and French kiss again under late summer stars.
They want to live even if it is like this,
alone in the radiant rooms of my body
counting my losses word by glorious
word.