John-Ward Leighton


Like kids in the back of the car
we ask,
“Are we there yet?”

Because it’s hard to say
if all our needs are not met,
we ask how far it is to go and we have no answer
because we just don’t know.

Sometimes good, sometimes bad,
but it’s the only life we’ve had
and it gets no better or worse
unless we have too much baggage of course.

Fate will free us from our load
we come in naked and that’s how we leave
and it’s only our memories
the survivors will grieve.

Some seem to have arrived
but most have merely just survived
and even those with smiles on their faces
have spent their lives in crappy places.

Isn’t all life a psychic construct
in which our emotions and reasoning can run amuck
and our incorrect fantasies and delusions
lead to very unhappy conclusions?

Is happiness a state of mind,
is happiness a place that we can find?
Or does it exist at all,
perhaps something we can buy at the mall?

Sometimes sad has a reason
it could be circumstance or maybe the season.
But if your life is sad and crappy
ask yourself.

How far is it to happy?

Photo: ©Copyright 2007 by John-Ward Leighton
Photo: ©Copyright 2007 by John-Ward Leighton

Author’s Note: Reflections on a documentary we saw last night on CBC Newsworld entitled “15 Birch Street.” it’s a story of a family’s life in a typical suburban home from the late fifties to the present brought about by the sudden and unexpected death of the mother. The protagonist the son is seeking an emotional connection with his father or so he thought.

The son is a photographer in a family that took a lot of pictures and home movies. Both the mother and the father were emotionally distant from the children. The son and the father really had very little to say to one another and the son wanted to sort it out.

The search perhaps revealed more than the son and the rest of the siblings really wanted to know. The father remarried about six months after the mother’s funeral to a woman he had worked with many years before. The father was obviously very happy with the new wife leading to some suspicion that there had been some hanky-panky in the past.

The current part of the story was told in interview style quite in your face interspersed with stills and home movie footage. The newly married couple had decided to start their new life together in Florida because as the father pointed out there was nothing holding him to the old place because all his friends had died or were about to.

While they were packing up the house and disposing of their mother’s possessions they came upon forty years of journals that their Mom had written. The journals revealed a very unhappy woman who had had short lived affair with an unnamed man and an obsessive unrequited love for her analyst. The woman had maintained an outward facade of the perfect suburban family and her children never suspected.

The interviews with the Dad revealed that although he had many opportunities to stray he hadn’t. The father at least had his work which he loved to get away to while the mother felt imprisoned by her life as a wife and mother; the sort of thing that we would now call settling. The son had gone to his rabbi to sort out the relationship or rather the lack of relationship with his father where the rabbi pointed out he, the son, was really trying to come to terms with the death of his mother.

The last scenes are of the father locking up and leaving the house at 15 Birch Street and saying good-bye to the old life as he and his new wife embarked on their new life. He was not reluctant to leave which lead me to the line,

“How far is it to happy?”

JWL: January 29, 2007

This poem and the author’s note inspired the response, “The Measure of Happiness” ©Copyright February 18, 2007 by Anthony W. Pahl OAM