passion

Row for Your Life

West Wind #2
by Mary Oliver, from West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems

You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rockswhen you hear that unmistakable
poundingwhen you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steamingthen row, row for your life
toward it.

Polishing Someone Else's Gold

Guante - "The Family Business" from Justin Schell | 612 to 651 on Vimeo.

The Family Business
by Guante

Jackie’s been here for twenty-five years and he tells me you get used to it. He says your nose learns to seal itself when you dive headfirst into an ocean of dust; your eyes develop nictitating membranes to keep the chemical sprays out; and your hands… they will grow their own gloves, invisible and tough and permanent. I’ve been a janitor for three weeks and I thought I was made of stronger materials.

We play chess in the break room. Jackie asks me what my favorite piece is. I say the pawn because, you know, he’s the underdog; the odds are against him. Jackie identifies with the pawns too, but he finds nobility in their sacrifice, he sees beauty in their simplicity, in the fact that they’re always moving forward.

Jackie shambles from room to room, moving half as fast as me but somehow getting twice as much done. The night shift will mess with your head like that. Jackie smiles, the saddest face I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I look at that face and feel like we are the servants entombed alive with the pharaoh, polishing someone else’s gold while our oxygen runs out, dutifully preparing a grand feast for a god who will never be hungry.

But Jackie tells me that there is honor in this. A good day’s work. An honest living. There is poetry in this.

But what kind of poetry lives in a can of orange naturalizer, the liquid breath of dragons? The mist dissolves every word creeping up my throat, overwhelms every idea. They got me wiping my reflection from the glass, scrubbing the shadows off the walls. They got me so scared of my alarm clock that I can’t fall asleep, even when my muscles drain out from underneath my fingernails and my thoughts stream out of my ears, and I am left with nothing but two eyes that refuse to close for fear of what they might see. 

Is there really honor in this? Or is that abstract notion the carrot they dangle in front of us pawns to move us across the board? 

But Jackie says you can’t think about it like that. He says that without us, the people who live and work in this building couldn’t function, that we keep the gears turning and that it might not be glamorous but it’s necessary. And maybe he’s right. Maybe I am just a working class kid who somehow hustled my way into college and got delusions of grandeur. Maybe now I’m “too good” to go into the family business: a hundred generations of janitors and farmers and infantry and factory workers and pawns.

So I suck it up… and last for two more months. And on my final day before an uncertain future, I make a point to shake Jackie’s hand, and I say:

"I’ve been thinking man. I think the reason pawns can’t move backwards is because if they could, they’d kill their own kings in a heartbeat. 

"Instead, we are forced to keep moving, believing we can get to the other side and become royalty ourselves, but most likely dying on the way there, sacrificed for a cause we don’t even understand. I wish you… I wish you the best, man. I wish you horses and castles."

Jackie smiles, the saddest face I’ve ever seen, and disappears into his work.

Eyes that See

“Most of us go through the world never seeing anything. Then you meet somebody like Herb and Dorothy, who have eyes that see. Something goes from the eye to the soul without going through the brain.” 

Richard Tuttle

See also:

 

Temporary Custodian of Beautiful Things

“I’ve been lucky all my life. Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honors, love. I rarely had to fight for anything. But I’ve paid for that luck with disasters. . .I’m like a living example of what people can go through and survive. I’m not like anyone. I’m me.”

~ Elizabeth Taylor, quoted in “A Lustrous Pinnacle of Hollywood Glamour,” New York Times, Mar. 23, 2011

And this from a recent interview for Harper’s Bazaar, “I never planned to acquire a lot of jewels or a lot of husbands. For me, life happened, just as it does for anyone else. I have been supremely lucky in my life in that I have known great love, and of course I am the temporary custodian of some incredible and beautiful things. But I have never felt more alive than when I watched my children delight in something, never more alive than when I have watched a great artist perform, and never richer than when I have scored a big check to fight AIDS. Follow your passion, follow your heart, and the things you need will come.”

On the Surface of Everyday Life

mine

XXVI
by Pablo Neruda, from Las Piedras del Cielo

Leave me a place underground, a labyrinth,
where I can go, when I wish to turn,
without eyes, without touch,
in the void, to dumb stone,
or the finger of shadow.

I know that you cannot, no one, no thing
can deliver up that place, or that path,
but what can I do with my pitiful passions,
if they are no use, on the surface
of everyday life,
if I cannot look to survive,
except by dying, going beyond, entering
into the state, metallic and slumbering,
of primeval flame?

What You Love

Guilty of Dust
by Frank Bidart, from In the Western Night

up or down from the infinite C E N T E R
B R I M M I N G at the winking rim of time

the voice in my head said

LOVE IS THE DISTANCE
BETWEEN YOU AND WHAT YOU LOVE

WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE
                •
then I saw the parade of my loves

those PERFORMERS comics actors singers

forgetful of my very self so often I
desired to die to myself to live in them

then my PARENTS my FRIENDS the drained
SPECTRES once filled with my baffled infatuations

love and guilt and fury and
sweetness for whom

nail spirit yearning to the earth
                •
then the voice in my head said

WHETHER YOU LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE

OR LIVE IN DIVIDED CEASELESS
REVOLT AGAINST IT

WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE

Unsarcastic Advice

From Steve Hannah,  C.E.O. of The Onion, from “If Plan B Fails, Go Through The Alphabet,” an interview with Adam Bryant, New York Times (May 14, 2010):

Steve Hannah, photo by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times “…never, ever do anything to deprive a human being of their dignity in work, in life. Always praise in public and criticize in private. You might be tempted, for example, when you’re letting someone go, to say something that would diminish the value of their work. Don’t ever do that.

…when you’re faced with something that’s really difficult and you think you’re at the end of your tether, there’s always one more thing you can do to influence the outcome of this situation. And then after that there’s one more thing. The number or possible options is only limited by your imagination…

Find what you really love to do and then go after it — relentlessly. And don’t fret about the money. Because what you love to do is quite likely what you’re good at. And what you’re good at will likely bring you financial reward eventually.

I’ve seen too many people who have plotted a career, and often what’s at the heart of all that plotting is nothing other than a stack of dollar bills. You need to be happy in order to be good, and you need to be good in order to succeed. And when you succeed, there’s a good chance you’ll get paid.

And while you’re at it, read. A lot. Start with Plato. He was a very practical man.”

Read the rest of this interview…

What Happened to Fiery Romance?

Andrew Bird Live at the Guthrie Theatre 2008

 

Why?
by Andrew Bird

Why? Why’d you do that
You shouldn’t have done that
If I told you once I told you three times
You’ll get your punishments when you show me your crimes
It’s not a spell or a curse you put on me
Or the way you make me smile so tenderly
But how I wish it was your temper you were throwing
Damn you for being so easygoing

I thought that time would tell
My sins would provoke you to raise some hell
Not a chance
Whatever happened to fiery romance
Oh how I wish it was those dishes you were throwing
Damn you for being so easygoing

No, don’t give that line
Don’t try to tell me that inaction is not a crime
Can’t you see what kind of seeds you’re sowing?
Damn you for being so easygoing