Joy has curly hair–brown and luscious like her mother, Worry, who,
even though she doesn’t talk to anymore, has come to love and respect.
Like you might come to respect modern art, or math.
This would not be possible without that,
some figure with a clipboard inside your head says,
before moving on to the Impressionists,
Joy goes to museums, and will smile at whatever anyone else has made
of what has made them. Mmmm, she hums as she passes a
red square on white.
I see you.
Of course, Joy prefers to drive slowly in her minivan, with all the bumper stickers you expect,
to her high school classroom, where she teaches art to bodies not quite set; still wondering
what they'll become.
Before class, Joy opens the blinds and takes down her watercolors, the same
as the ones her students use. Joy is not afraid of sharing, of being
one of the young. Youth is a virus she is willing to catch, again and again.
When Joy makes her first mark, she doesn’t play music.
Like listening to your lover’s breath instead of D’Angelo, for Joy, color and the
impulse to leave a mark; to say or sketch the unsayable,
At night, Joy reads poetry. Pops stanzas into her soul like cups of chocolate.
She reads with her eyes closed, mouth open, heart like a hand or a leaf,
Joy tried novels for a while; she even strode towards the end of
To the Lighthouse, wanting to know what else Woolf carried, if her skirts of sentences
were still swaying in the river of language, with the reeds of rooted
but flowing truths.
But, turning each page, Joy's body kept turning to notice the hummingbird at the window,
the spider eggs that have been floating like white kites lately, across the
square of blue sky. And she’d need to get up to greet her friend, Beauty,
always knocking at the window like this at the wrong time.
Can’t you do anything about this? Joy would ask.
And Beauty would say, again, no, just see it clearly. Really see it–which,
Joy would realize, is a type of doing. Joy should write this down,
but she won't. Joy isn’t trying to remember. She is trying to know, to be.
She hopes her body becomes the word that
helps you remember.
Joy's kitchen is hot, with squash yellow walls. She doesn’t believe in air conditioning,
or hair conditioning. In joy’s house it is always summer.
Joy dances while she cooks--watch her through the window, pulling off one layer at a time
to reveal Anna Karenina arms: the kind Tolstoy seemed obsessed with,
beautiful because full, because round, because soft.
Beautiful for the reasons Shame, her mother-in-law, thinks she is not.
Joy is married to Responsibility. He is broad shouldered and blonde.
He is, most of the time, able to respond. But he is not alwyas able to carry Joy’s
full weight. Joy is bigger than her husband. She bursts at the seams, spills over the edges of
Most days, Joy carries him.
Look at Joy’s round glasses steaming up over the stove tonight; at those
summer vegetables, verdant and golden, which she’s picked from the communal garden that
Joy is not afraid to take, and knows that taking, receiving–enjoying–
is what keeps the flow of giving going on.
Joy wishes she could go on. But she has a monarch lifespan. Joy’s hair, if you
look close, is not just dark brown, but also amber, a Burnt Sienna, like the Monarch’s wing or
the oil paint that that one boy in class is always using so much of,
as if he knows how much more of the path there is to cover,
as if he is trying to paint the ground beneath his feet.
Joy mounts no clocks in her home, does not check to see much of this
is left. But she is also the one most aware of hours passing; of your place in them;
of how long you have been waiting for her.
Joy is leaving. But first, she is on her way. First, she will
sit with you, for longer than you think you deserve,
and ask if you want to paint. She will cook for you and when
you think you have room for nothing else, she will
read a poem out loud.