This week’s poem captures a domestic moment, a family sitting in the café at the Portland Museum of Art. It begins with a rueful epigraph from Donald Hall. Notice the surprising verbs and gerunds at work here, which tell us everything we need to know both about the darkly funny nature of this poem and about the poet’s craft: “snow / ghosting the windows,” “a Maine sky imprisoned,” “a café seizured / in beautiful pastries,” and “itchy / guards swimming the room.”

Christopher Locke lives in New York and is the author of six books of poetry, including “Trespassers” (Finishing Line Press, 2016), a memoir, and “Ordinary Gods” (Salmon, 2017), a book of stories and poems. His first book for children, “Heart-Flight,” is forthcoming this year.

Happy

By Christopher Locke

But there are no happy endings, because if things are happy, they have not ended. – Donald Hall

Portland museum, slight chips of snow

ghosting the windows like ash off

cigarettes; a Maine sky imprisoned

with all the tough angels. We sit in

the building’s belly, a café seizured

in beautiful pastries, croissants glazed

like tearful cheeks; popcorn labeled

as non-GMO and therefore, somehow,

healthy. We eat in silence, and I’m thinking

about the Pissarro on the third floor, and

that strange video tower being the only

piece which read “Please Touch”, itchy

guards swimming the room with hope

you’d drag a finger down a Wyeth

so as to give them a reason. The girls

pipe up, start comparing the best key

lime pies they’ve ever had, the best

scones: “Nothing spongy,” Grace says.

Sophie nods in agreement, mouth full.

My wife offers “What if we opened

a restaurant and called the kid’s meal

a ‘Happier Meal’,” and it’s my first

genuine laugh of the day. “That’s

great,” I say. “What would we serve?”

My wife shrugs, noncommittal.

And the nicest exchange we’ve

shared all week ends as quickly

as it started, so we turn back

to our daughters, their talk silly,

natural, and yes, almost happy.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2014 Christopher Locke. It appeared originally in Moon City Review in 2014 and appears here by permission of the author. This column is accepting submissions through Oct. 31. Poems must be written by Maine poets or about Maine. Submissions must be made online. For more information go to mainewriters.org/program/deep-water.