Happiness, Inc.

by Adrie Kusserow

Long before the most tender of feelings fled the Technocene,
they tried to be obedient, to pass as normal,

squishing their ineffable, doubting,
gnaw-longing, soul drooping jaws

into sunny emoji molds.
They squeezed themselves into chat rooms,

tweets, dressed themselves in Second Life,
garnished every text with silly memes,

trying to pass as pert and Happy.
When Apple produced the menstruation emoji,

the feelings appreciated the gesture,
the attempt to be inclusive,

but still they felt left out, moaned
late at night, lonely, unfulfilled.

They called to each other across
the landscapes, but amidst the wild proliferation

of McHappy, McSad, McAnger, McFear,
they saw themselves reflected nowhere.

So the feelings left town, floating up like ghosts,
leaving emoji husks to litter the landscape.

Now the most endangered of them,
the bruised and tattered, the hybrids and shapeshifters,

float above the new world like shadows,
hovering, longing for release, dying to slip back

into the skin of the human race again, where
they used to swell, linger, surprise,

and confound. Now they drift above
the highways’ tight manic currents,

the mega malls, neon commercials,
squinting from the billboards’ glitz and bling.

All night their shadows slide across the sky,
across the sweet night’s skin

way up high where they are forgiven for slipping
out of every cage,

the fins of their grey moody undulations
rippling through the vast fluid of space.

Like sting rays, they are waiting,
hunting, hunting, to slip under the bruised parts

of America, the places that have yet to harden,
the last tender fontanelles of its skull.

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