The Smiling Solution

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Contributor: Michaeleen Kelly

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In a recurring dream image
I’m situated center left
in a slowly moving cohort
of all those I’ve loved still living.
I’m beaming joy at those faces
I feel compelled to uplift.

There’s a sense that missing beloved faces
have already moved to the front of the line.
I know about the cliff awaiting us there.
Were the missing ones perceived as award-winning racehorses
zealously beating out their competition?
Did we dare offer smiling faces as they gallantly whisked by us?

The generalized smiling resembles the populace
in 1950’s Chinese propaganda films,
singing bombastically about Communism.
Our forward movement seems natural, ineluctable,
like being trapped on a moving set of stairs at the airport,
surrounded by unmovable travelers and their packs.

I’m trying to keep my poise and keep grinning,
playing like I’m in on a secret joke,
while preparing for a noble, gracious leap
off this mortal delivery device.

I’m flashing my broken teeth and tender gums
at my grandkids at the end of the line,
grateful about their glacially slow inching toward the finish line,
while working on getting the fear out of my arched eyebrows,
as other galloping dervishes gain unnervingly on the outside track,
all unaware of the nature of the race,
my eyes imploring them to recognize and pay forward
my albeit feigned optimism.

If there’s a better approach
to inoculating the most vulnerable against despair
during my brief tenure in this lethal marathon,
no reason to panic.
It’s just not moving forward real soon.

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Michaeleen Kelly is a professor of Philosophy at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She's a performance poet who has been published in Dunes Review, Blue Collar Review and Grey Wolf Press.


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