A Possum Entering the Argument

By Tom Healy b. 1961 Tom Healy
We’re talking about
when we met
and you say

it was easier
to fall for me thinking
(I’ll remember

this pause)
it was likely I’d be
dead by now.

Talking. Falling.
Thinking. Waiting . . .
Have I

undone
what you’ve tried to do?
You say no.

You say the surprise
of still being
is something

being built—
the machine of our living,
this saltwork of luck,

stylish, safe,
comfortable and
unintended.

Meanwhile, I haven’t
had the opportunity
to tell you, but

our lovely little dog
has just killed
a possum.

Maybe it’s unfair,
a possum entering
the argument here.

But I lay it down
before us:
because an ugly

dying  possum
played dead
and didn’t run,

its dubious cunning
was brought to an end
outside our door

by our brutal, beautiful
and very pleased
little dog.

So how do I say
that this is not
about death or sadness

or even whether
you really
first loved me

waiting, thinking
I’d be
dying young?

It’s just that
standing there
a few minutes ago

holding a dead possum
by its repellent
bony tail,

I was struck by how
eerily pleased I was
to be a spectator

to teeth, spit,
agony and claw,
feeling full of purpose,

thinking how different
in our adversaries
we are from possums.

We try love—
the fist of words,
their opening hand.

And whether we play
dead or alive,
our pain, the slow

circulation of happiness,
our salt and work,
the stubborn questions

we endlessly
give names to
haunt us with choice.

Tom Healy, “A Possum Entering the Argument” from What the Right Hand Knows. Copyright © 2009 by Tom Healy. Reprinted by permission of Four Way Books.

Source: What the Right Hand Knows (Four Way Books, 2009)

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Poet Tom Healy b. 1961

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, Death, Relationships, Love, Home Life, Nature, Animals, The Body, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Tom Healy was raised on a farm in Mount Vision, New York. He earned a BA in philosophy from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. His first collection of poetry, What the Right Hand Knows (2009), was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award in Poetry.
 
Of Healy’s spare yet evocative poems, poet Carol Muske-Dukes commented in the Huffington Post: “From the . . .

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Poems by Tom Healy

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, Death, Relationships, Love, Home Life, Nature, Animals, The Body, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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