The Difference Between Happiness And Joy. {poetry}

To feel joy

Is not to wrap myself in the blank word

The blanket

Of happiness

It is not

Swaddling and pulling so tightly

That my toes turn blue

From the force of my longing


But it’s okay because

I’m happy

Or I am going to be

With that

Next party

Next friendship

Next next thing



A word stuffed full of expectation

So stuffed

It is a landfill

Bursting open with garbage bag disappointments


The idea of it

The mania of it

All upswing, no downswing

All up and up and up


Where is the descending arc?

The fall?

Like the season, it’s going to come


And I can kick my heels and scream No No

I have to be happy

If I am not happy, I have not done my duty as a North American

I have not been performing to my peak level of functioning

Everyone else seems so content


But let’s pick apart their


Their threads

On the internet that tell their tale


Forget happiness

It’s an illusion

Patched together

In movie magic illuminated scene pops

And Wite-Out smiles


It’s not the real world

I think: I can have that

I can possess happiness

Like a pet newt

Hold it close

And suffocate it in my clammy-handed ferocity

My grasping hand needs one thing

One thing only



The books

How to Be happy

Happiness 101

Be happy in 30 days

Be hip hop happening happy in a blink of an eye

A wiggle of a bottom

Put a pencil between my teeth

So I smile

Trick my body

My mind into thinking I am happy with false inputs


God, I am sick of the word happy

Because it zeroes in on one thing

My failure to be it



Without break, like a worker without rights

Slaving under the Big Boss

The Big Happy


I’d rather be comrades with joy

Not elation

Not ecstatic

But joie de vivre


Joy is conceivable

Think not as emotion

But as being


It is simply to enjoy

Not as: wow, this is the best thing ever

But as: I can appreciate even this anger

Even this depression


Joy sees the squirming black legs of despair

And flips them over

Into a red ladybug

And fear has nothing to squawk at anymore


Joy does not bully like the assembly line of happiness

Into the conformity of good and only good


All the time

Every time, and reject any defects

Any cracks in my smile


Joy recognizes the beauty

In contrast

The red against the black

The blue following the yellow

The beauty of things morphing into other things


There is room for change in joy


But happiness is rigid

Like a popsicle stick

Sticky with the juice of desire

It snaps under pressure

Splintering when the neon orange sweetness is gone


In Joy there is no fix

Each moment appears Whole

and leaves Whole


An egg waiting to hatch

Bring forth life

Responding to the warmth of your heart


Do I throw away the egg, saying:

No, I wanted a bird?

A bird of paradise

And not this round brown thing


Do I miss out on the big picture

Because I am in pursuit of perfection?


Big overblown happiness

A bag full of wind


Or do I choose joy?

In all moments





On a train

On a plane

eating green eggs and ham

I am

In merely one possibility of the spectrum

One band of the rainbow

Scintillating constantly

Red, yellow, violet

I accept

I choose joy.


AliceDolphinAlice Dolphin is a human being grappling with the intense fear and anxiety that comes from growing up as a human doing. Poetry and art bring relief into her life, as do drinking in nature and bathing in the sun. She intends to one day live in a cottage by the sea, devoting herself fully to her art and laughing every day. You can discover more of her writing and art on her website.


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