Poetry: Daughters by Alexis Sears

“Daughters” seeks to ask of happiness its place, its time, its purpose—Alexis Sears rides her poem through a cascade of softly touching subjects with the ease of a long downhill road, coming to rest in an a field of evergreen. Coming to rest with some sort of answer about her weakness, our weakness, about poetry.



Sewanee, Tennessee

“We spend too much time writing about sadness,”
Connor says. He’s right. The poet’s sadness
is such an irritating trope. I’m glad this

summer, here in Tennessee, I’ve witnessed
what might be joy snug in my shoes. I’ve witnessed
what could pass for healing, that old hit/miss

word so overused by shrinks and friends
who suffer endlessly, who make fast friends
with chewed-up fingernails, tangled ends

of trendy bobs and updos, far too tired
to keep playing the role. I, too, am tired
when almost-strangers tell me they’ve admired

my poems for “being honest” about suffering—
good for my art, apparently. Our suffering
comes from wanting, some strange website, buffering,

informs me Buddha said. But here, right now,
in Tennessee, I hardly want. Right now,
my blood is carbonated bliss, Sprite. How

have I become this overflowing sweetness—
“bubbly,” fellow writers call me, sweetness
from wine on tongues, our feelings of completeness

somehow foreign but familiar
at the same time? Mosquitos and familiar
smells of fresh-paved gravel, liquor. We’re

those we’ve feared, those who we never thought
we’d be: the happy ones. I always thought
I wanted daughters nothing like me, not

like whispers in the chaos of the city,
their inky sentences colliding. City
girls obsessed with being “pretty,” gritty

and acidic smart-ass words. I still
question everything sometimes: the still
Sewanee ponds, the daily pops of Advil.

But questions lie beneath my cool, gray covers,
total outcasts now. The word joy covers
my skin like swelling bug bites. I discover

that happiness is neither strength nor weakness,
the possibility that my own weakness
isn’t weakness. Maybe I should speak less

about this so-called angst. It’d be okay
to have daughters like me. I’ll be okay,
I realize, frightened, untarnished array

of my worries on a platter, wooden, clean—
relieved, though. Who knows? Maybe now I’m clean,
absolved, a different woman, finally seen.



Alexis Sears

Alexis Sears received her MFA in poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she was a 2019 Sewanee Writers’ Conference scholar. Her manuscript, Out of Order, was a finalist for the New Criterion Poetry Prize. Alexis's work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Cortland Review, Hopkins Review, minnesota review, Able Muse, Sou’wester, [PANK], the Texas Review, Passages North, and elsewhere.

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