There’s no scoop in the grain bin
with which to measure a modest contentment,
no Arden, no unmapped hundred-acre wood.
Here there are city parks and places under bridges,
shanties where you dare not sleep. But no
leveling green wood for the dispossessed.
Still if fortune keeps your feet from the fire,
unsteadily, but with luck, you might
like the divorced Hicks street mother of three
raise chickens in a backyard hutch, petition
the old Italian men for tips on growing
winter chard, kale, & beets in a cold frame.
Twenty-somethings debate coffee grounds in compost
and heirloom seeds while the construction worker
in the metal-tipped boots has gone quiet,
hands deep in his pockets; we cannot know
why he’s here, but we’re hearing everything
from the girl who wants her loans forgiven
because the government bailed out the banks.
And she won’t vote for Obama again,
she may not vote at all. She favors anarchy.
Shall I distract her with the mystery of the red bees
of Red Hook or tell her about the friend of a friend
who farms all year down by the naval yard—
an old asphalt play lot gone heady with cornstalks,
sunflowers, every blessed vegetable under the sun
and the neighborhood boys busy every afternoon.
Shall I choose amity over rancor or retreat
while advancing and speak riddles like Feste,
“The better for my foes and the worse
for my friends” or just be plain and say
that for me contentment is three children
under the same roof, the kettle whistling, a book
tipped on its side, splayed open to the left off page
and waiting for the next conversation to begin.
About "Finding Happiness," Catherine Staples writes
The Wallace Stevens question of finding “what will suffice” led me to thinking about a line from As You Like It: “some settled low content” and about the pastoral notion that one might make do with exile in the wood of Arden. But when you live in the city, how can you access the pastoral, the healing green? In terms of setting, I drew upon my brother Paul’s New York—from under the arc of the Brooklyn Bridge to the varied neighborhoods where long wandering bike rides took us.