I’m going to stand up here and read this damn poem
even though it’s hard. I have to hide all the things
I want to say behind this clever cloud of words.
Listen. I want to leap from the stage, run into the street
like that guy at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers,
stop all the traffic and shout “Don’t you understand? It’s love!”
Sure, the cops would eventually come, but I’ve always been
pretty skilled at evading the cops. Like that one time in Rochester
when my name was echoing off the buildings from the ends
of police bullhorns and the crowd formed around me and pushed
me through like a baby in the birth canal until I came out the other
side and ducked into an alley like a spy in a Cold War movie.
Of course love isn’t like running an illegal protest, at least not all the time.
But anymore I’m learning it can take all the same skills, the same
willingness to court damage to the spirit, if not physical danger.
So why do it? Because sometimes all the little moments align.
Your fates march together. You press forward, hands linked,
fists raised, faces upturned toward a bright, uncertain future.
/ / /
5 March 2014
the ruby and the river
she dropped her ruby into the slow-moving river
it flowed downstream a bit then settled quickly
grabbed by the silted bottom like an eager lover
afternoons she’d strip off her clothes, dive in
swim down to see her ruby glint in the muddy light
each day it became a little harder to see
the riverbed slowly claiming it for its own
until finally one day she jumped from the shore
split the surface of the water with two pointed hands
felt the water take hold of her body, welcome her
she swam down but couldn’t find the ruby
just the stoic riverbed, waiting but offering nothing
/ / /
4 March 2014
State College, PA
I Got A Raise And It Made Me Angry
Yesterday I got a raise and I left work feeling very annoyed. One thing I’ve been working on a lot in my Buddhist practice is trying to both isolate the part of the body where the feeling resides and also to think about what made the feeling arise in the first place.
Three things bothered me about my raise.
The first was the meeting in which it happened. I make $10 an hour with no benefits, because I can’t afford our benefits at $10 an hour. I asked for $12 and got $11. In the meeting, my two bosses were really pulling out all the clichéd stops to try to devalue my work as much as possible, even while giving me more money. I finally stopped them and reminded them both that I’ve negotiated union contracts with multinational companies, and that the meeting we were in didn’t need to happen the way it was happening. I also pushed back on their devaluing statements. Although I was proud of my stance in the meeting, I still disliked the general feeling of conflict, and also the renewed realization that I work in a nonunion job for people who don’t care about their employees.
The second issue was a negative, but it led to a positive. I was embarrassed to be having a conversation in which I needed to justify to someone why I should make more than 133% above the Pennsylvania poverty line. I’m where I am because of the choices I’ve made and I know that. But it’s 2014 and EVERYBODY is worth more than $10 or $11 or $12 an hour. To be sitting there in my white shirt with my employer’s name on the left pocket asking for $80 more a week before taxes was humiliating. Again, not because I’m above it, but because everyone is. However, it led to this commitment: This is the last of these conversations I will ever have. I already had the goal of becoming a full-time freelancer by the end of 2014, and this meeting renewed my commitment to never justifying my worth for a low-paying job again.
The final issue was more personal. In the meeting, it came out that something I’d told a co-worker in confidence had made it to our boss. However, the thing I’d told her – that I was uncomfortable taking on her duties (she has a broken arm and needs to farm out paperwork) while making poverty wages – had put her in a difficult position, so I mostly felt bad about that. I apologized to her this morning.
So much is bound up in our working lives. I’m going to do everything I can to be the person who controls that part of my life.
/ / /
The photo at the top of this post is of a note I received from my boss this afternoon (about 8 hours after writing this post) because I unclogged the men’s room toilet.
putting them in the best order
Rejection: doctor’s office, or
big sunglasses, sometimes
filtered, sometimes knot
Rejection: grading papers, or
steaming cups of __________
Rejection: this rebellious body, or
:thousand-mile stares, the both of them
Rejection: your advances, or
driver’s seat, side mirror
walking, sitting, writing
Rejection: a dull life, or
or maybe not
Rejection: the unexamined self, or
/ / /
2 March 2014
how many times in how many bars
on how many napkins
text bleeding into the cheap paper
better suited for soaking up
condensation and mistakes
the band is playing “A Felicidade”
we are talking but not talking
text and subtext and saxophone
trying to avoid monkey clapping
loose lips sink ships
/ / /
28 February 2014
Zola, State College
Never heard “A Felicidade”? Enjoy.