I have a friend who insists we don’t need to clean up our act before we die, because we have been cleaning up after our children all our lives, and turn-about is fair play. We can therefore feel right about leaving our children a house full of rubbish, for them to clean up.
To a certain degree I agree. After all, when I was young I was spoiled, and didn’t have to do my own laundry, or make my own bed, but that is long, long time ago, and it seems I have had to spend a disproportionate amount of time paying back for that born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-my-mouth luxury.
The luxury of my childhood made me see how lovely life could be, which is a prerequisite of poetry. However another prerequisite of poetry seems to be that you spend a fair amount of time afterwards as a dishwasher. Others eat high on the hog and dirty the dishes, but you just clean up the mess.
Others ride the high horses, but you clean the stables.
Others eat the pickled herring from fancy jars, as you clean the guts and gurry in the cannery.
Others sniff the roses, but you are the gardener with hands bleeding from thorns.
And on and on it goes, year after year, until at age 63 I am running a Farm-childcare, as a so-called “Childcare Professional”. My wife gets irked when I say that job-title is a bunch of bosh, and I’m just a “babysitter”. Others work the fine jobs, as I change the diapers. Others spoil the children, and I deal with the tantrums. Basically it is a matter of cleaning up other people’s shit.
Some people are so irresponsible they basically poop in their own pants, in a thousand symbolic ways, and it is the duty of poets to clean up the filthy mess.
I’m sorry if that seems too crude and too blunt, but it seems a reality that young writers should be aware of. Too often young poets think they’ll spend all their entire life traipsing about rose gardens telling people how exquisite the blossoms smell. I have to sadly inform them that the only poets who succeed in remaining in rose gardens either have given up on writing, and are experts in rose genetics and cultivation, or else they are the gigolos of rich old ladies.
The real garden of real poetry involves less lovely smells. You sniff dish-washing soap, and diapers, and stables, and canneries, and the fumes of factories, but you work with the salt of the earth, and you learn where real beauty is found. You have to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues.
It is ironic in a way that the rich and powerful think they are controlling things, when they can’t even cook their own meals, wash their own dishes or laundry, or grow their own food or roses. In some cases, when they get old and decrepit, they even revert to diapers, and need someone to change those as well. In essence the rich and powerful are hapless and pathetic, but they like to think they have power over those they depend on, and have this word, “delegate”, that makes their dependence look like power.
In a better world those in the position to delegate work to others would be aware they are dependents. They would be full of gratitude and there would be none of this nonsense of some thinking they are so high and mighty. However, as heaven is not coming to earth (so far this week), the basic fact of the matter is that those who are the salt of the earth are in essence crucified. Real poets are included in this crucified crew.
Of course none is crucified to the degree the Christ was, but, to a lesser degree, in this fallen world, any good worker must put up with some degree of crucifixion. I know this is a sad truth to state to young poets who know how glorious and poetic life might be, “if only”, but “if only” is not the current state of affairs, and therefore the only alternative to some degree of crucifixion, and to singing the blues, is to join those fat-cats who are fallen, but think they are high and mighty. Only fools want that.
I think it is far more high and mighty to change diapers. I’ve got a bumper sticker that states, “Men who change diapers change the world.”
I am pretty arrogant, I suppose, when I think I am superior to my superiors, but the fact of the matter is that history bears me out.
One of the greatest masters of music of the past was Bach, and he is remembered far more than any of the fat-cats he wrote his music for. In fact no one would remember Brandenburg, if it weren’t for Bach. Yet, in his time, Bach was just a servant, even to the degree where he wore the same uniform as a butler.
Servants should take pride in the fact their pride is treated like a doormat. If Vanity is ugly, then the humble are beautiful, and therefore, if poets love beauty, they should love being dishwashers.
I should confess I hated washing dishes, at first. But time has taught me that the very music of poetry is based upon giving others a gift they may not deserve, but need. Some times, washing dishes is the poetry, because it is needed, though the messy do not deserve it.
Therefore I recently concluded that, when I die, I didn’t want to leave my children an unholy mess to clean up, such as my father left me. Not that it wasn’t fun to sort through his mess and fill big dumpsters with trash, because I made thousands with other stuff on E bay. However that took hours upon hours, and I think my own kids have better things to do, and might prefer to skip that bother.
Therefore I decided to be noble, and clean up my trash before I die. I waited until the “Red Flag Warning” (caused by a local drought) was lifted, and then had a big fire.
Into the fire went all sorts of lumber which I hadn’t thrown away, because I “might” be able to use it, however I had never gotten around to those dream-projects. In fact some lumber had sat around waiting for so long that, even if I had gotten around to the project, the lumber would have been too rotted. However other lumber still might have been used, for such projects, but recent cancer confronted me with how brief my remaining time may be, and how unlikely it is I’ll ever do what I dream, and I understood saving such old lumber was a fool’s fond hope. I was making the farm much more tidy, by burning all the hopes that will not be.
Burning some of the hopes was a bit of a crucifixion for me personally, but I figured it would spare my children the crucifixion of cleaning up a dead parent’s mess, when I die. All in all, it seemed to be a way of making life more heavenly. I even developed a sense of humor, and decided there was a delicious irony in the fact that, after cleaning up after others for so many years, I was cleaning up after myself. The last thing I imagined was that such cleanliness would increase my personal sense of crucifixion. In fact I felt vain, which always seems to all but beg for some sort of nail to come along and puncture my fat ego.
The crucifixion that then occurred didn’t involve anything as dramatic as stigmata on my palms. Instead I just stepped on a nail, while burning a pile of old lumber. It was a beauty of an old, rusty spike, that sliced right through my boot’s sole and dove into the ball of my foot so deeply it was difficult to remove, despite the pain.
Oh, the irony! But that is what fuels poetry.
I’m not sure what it is about an old farm
That demands one has to, once every year,
Step down hard on a nail. All of the charm
Of rural life evaporates, yet, queer
As it may sound, the time you must then spend
Limping in pain reminds you that walking’s a gift.
After all, walking’s something that we tend
To take for granted. Our thighs and calves uplift
As humble feet deal with dirt. Our minds pretend
They’re high above such earthy cares, until
A nail spikes through our rubber sole, and we
Are forced to walk funny. Then pain’s our thrill,
Our focus, our consciousness, and our glee
Is when it stops. How we define mirth
Is bossed by one nail that brings us to earth.
When one nail can change things, life becomes simplified. Certain things are stricken from the daily schedule, and you attend to more boring things, which become poetic. For example, how to identify the hawk that insists on screeching at you from limbs, but never stands still for a close up? Is this poetic?
My son insists it is a broad winged hawk, but I don’t know, as I limp about. It is just a screeching creature, that refuses to stand still for a zoomed in close-up. But that is not my job. My job is to attend to children, and to zoom in on them…..To forbid war-like things like video games and toy guns, and to teach them to be gentle young poets. But when I zoom in on them, what are they making of sticks, and what sort of respect are they showing me?
(Sometimes I get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield.) I suppose some will suggest I should make sticks be illegal, but the sniper in a small boy somehow reminds me of young poets. Authority holds no glamour, and they think they can improve upon it.
I try to be big about getting assassinated from all sides by small boys in their make-believe worlds. (After all, on other days they treat me like a rock star.). However the violins of self-pity get going, after you have stepped on a nail. Walking hurts, hawks screech at you, and small boys snipe. Where is the justice!!!???
Even the pussy willows have gone by, before I could pick them and plunge them in glycerin and freeze them in suspended animation. If I’d done that I could have made a few extra bucks, selling them to flower shops. But, even though the spring is retarded and nothing else wants to bloom, the pussy willows jumped ahead. They are no longer the furry gray buds that flower shops pay for. The cat’s-fur gray is gone, and instead they look like this:
Hmm! Not half bad! Maybe the folk who shop in flower shops don’t know what they are missing.
Maybe the parents who don’t know their sons are snipers don’t know what they’re missing.
Maybe people who are never screamed at by hawks don’t know what they’re missing.
Maybe I’m lucky to step on a nail and limp around afterwards.