The Mood

By Carl Dennis

Art attribution: “Study of clouds” by William Stanley Haseltine

It’s only sensible for me to want to flourish
In mind and heart and body, but why
Should I want you to flourish as well
Unless I believe it’s in my interest?
Why should I put myself out for your sake
When I’m not in the mood, when my body
Wants to sleep in, my heart
Isn’t moved by the thought of your company,
And my mind considers your mind conventional?
Find someone else to drive you
To the repair shop to pick up your car.
As for the famous injunction you hint at,
“Love your neighbor as yourself,”
If it made any sense, would its big promoters
Be obliged to have it repeated each week
From millions of pulpits? Would it require
More than a dozen gods to endorse it,
Ghostly no-shows I’m not in the mood to please?
Let others compete for the prize reserved
For a will always generous while I watch
From the viewing stand or turn away.
Bad moods, my Aunt Celia said,
In a burst of metaphor, fifty years ago,
When she thought I hadn’t helped with cleanup
In the proper spirit, are clouds
Clustering low on a mountain, while the peak,
Rising above them, basks in the sun.
What about clouds that bump the sky?
Aunt Celia, who told me not to be moody
When the oldsters at dinner turned the talk
To their pains and illnesses, away from the movie
I wanted to ask about. That’s just their way,
She suggested, of reminding themselves
How little time they have left for a final proof
They haven’t been living by bread alone.
And what exactly, she asked, did I suppose
I was living for? Just for pleasure?
Couldn’t a boy endowed with ambition
Come up with a project larger than that?
But if I have, it doesn’t include
Driving you anywhere, not today,
Not with the mood I’m in.


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