A Possum Entering the Argument


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

 what you’ve tried to do? You say no.

You say the surprise of still being
 is that something

is 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.

It seemed weird,
 a possum entering the argument here.

But there it was –
 an ugly dying possum playing dead

its dubious cunning 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 adversities
 we are from possums.

Our pain, the slow circulation of happiness, our salt and work –

the stubborn questions we endlessly 
give names to –

haunt us by choice. Play dead or 
play we’re alive.

Unlike the possum, it’s the fault
 of words.