"Happy and Free" by Tony Hoagland

June 11, 2018

I should not have gotten the tattoo that says

May All Beings Be Happy and Free on my left arm,

running from the inside of my elbow to the wrist

in 20 pt. Verdana sans-serif type.


My serotonin level that day was so elevated

that it deceived me

into an optimistic feeling that I was finally

ready to be pure. I have been happy in that way before


and you would think I would have by now

that I inevitably return to earth

like a leaky, gradually deflating helium balloon.


Now I see that my great tattoo might better have been

a customized sweatshirt purchased online for twenty dollars,

that said Short Attention Span,

or University of Repetitive Emotion.


How quickly things pass. How long mistakes last.

how unrealistic I am when left to my own devices.

When I rolled up my shirt sleeve at the tattoo emporium

to have that sentence stenciled into my pale flesh


I was getting into a relationship

I could not possibly sustain.

May All Beings Be Happy and Free – what a fitting punishment

for the hubris of my passing and unstable self-esteem!


And yet, it is my life, mine to squander as I will.

– That is a kind of freedom, I suppose.

And I have a story, which is still



that makes me kind of happy, too.