Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Everyone, everywhere, gets up, and goes home"

     Twitter continually gives you the opportunity to endorse the ideas of strangers without really thinking about them.
     I was scrolling through the assortment of news and trivia, bleats and bullying last week when I came upon a Tweet from someone I was familiar with, but not on Twitter: Yoko Ono, who I guess nowadays must be identified as the Japanese artist who married Beatle John Lennon:

     Sounds good by me. Because discouragement comes, efforts flag, especially toward the tail end of your 50s. Collapsing across the finish line just doesn't seem an option any more. There is no finish line. Death maybe.
     So you keep doing it and doing it and doing it until ... what? You pop? Discouragement comes up on your from behind and tackles you, hard, into the ground?

     Maybe there are other options. 
     There's a beautiful poem by Jennifer Michael Hecht. Brief—just a dozen lines—married to the cumbersome title “On the Strength of All Conviction and the Stamina of Love.”
     It begins:

Sometimes I think
we could have gone on.
All of us. Trying. Forever.
     As a writer, I really value the "we" and the "all of us" in the above. We are not isolated at our looms and wheels and keyboards, but together, a cohort, a mass, a team. Some doing better than others, sure, but all of us unified in our dreams, our effort.
     Then Hecht moves the ball.
But they didn’t fill
the deserts with pyramids.
They just built some. Some.
     Changing the dynamic. We aren't the artisans we fancy ourselves to be; we're slaves. Rolling the giant slabs of our ambition up these improvised ramps. Our sun-burnt cheeks pressed hard against the rough surface of the task, heaving with all our might. The idea of a pyramid-chocked desert seems fantastic, futile, silly.
     Then we leap from ancient Egypt to today in a single bound.

They’re not still out there,
building them now. Everyone,
everywhere, gets up, and goes home.
     Which sounds so enticing. The negation of a whimsical image straight from Billy Collins—all of those workers still out there, Giza abuzz with activity, masses of slaves, ropes, pulleys, new pyramids going up to this day, somehow overlooked by the indifferent world. 
     And that final "home"—who doesn't want to go home? "The place where," as Robert Frost said so heartbreakingly, "when you have to go there, they have to take you in."
     Honestly, I read the poem and, inspired, thought of posting it here and simply quitting the blog cold after five years. Here, figure this one out, good-bye. 
Because whatever the world wants, this obviously is not it. Five years is plenty. 
      But then, I'm doing it for myself, because it's fun and not terribly demanding, really. I'd miss it. And maybe you'd miss it too. So on we go. Leading to the end of Hecht's poem, something of a rebuke, a twist to make us think harder about what has gone before. 
Yet we must not
Diabolize time. Right?
We must not curse the passage of time. 
     Why not? Time certainly won't care. Maybe because doing so is futile. There's a lot of that going around. Some days, everything is futile.
     Anyway, that's enough for today. See you tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow after that....


  1. And, I can never say it enough for what it means to my day, thank you.

  2. I hope you keep the blog. I like it. But you got to like it because you're doing all the work. I check it out every day. Never gets old to me. Hope you keep going.

  3. If you can still write poetry when you're 87, why wouldn't you?

  4. I’ve read it every day. Sometimes if it’s almost midnight I will stay up a little longer just to read the next days post. Would miss it very much.

  5. Don't stop. I read every goddam day.....first thing

  6. Reading the poem with commentary, I didn't like it. Going back and reading just the 12 lines and I enjoyed its wisdom and brevity. Neil, I know the Egyptians took slaves like all empires, but I thought it has been established that the great monuments were built as civic endeavors by what passed for free citizens.

    1. Generally, I would agree that it's better to read a poem by itself rather than amidst a running commentary, but in this case the poem is not being offered for its esthetic value alone, but as a counterpoint to Yoko Ono's "keep on keeping on" tweet and I found Neil's explication useful in getting his point across as well as in understanding the poem. And even if historically it's false, we all "know" that the pyramids were built with slave labor -- "The Ten Commandments" told us so.

      By the way, I hope that the "False Flyer" is not Fake Fake news a la Jussie; maybe it's Fake Fake Fake news in hopes of scoring 2 points: calling attention to Lori's "gayness," while implying that she cooked up the flyer herself.


    2. tate, I assume tongue is in cheek, as "The Ten Commandments" didn't include a pyramid. I'm waiting for the discovery of the 660,000 skeletons of those denied the promised land, who must have died in the Sinai Desert.

  7. Please don't get up and go home just yet, Neil. Your blog usually has a surprise or a smile, and often makes me reach for the dictionary to look up a new, useful (or at least interesting) word.

  8. Discouragement at the tail-end of one's fifties? I'm thirteen years your senior, Mr. S...and if you think it's tough now, just wait until you pass seventy, and you know your best days are far behind you, and you start to feel like Dorothy in Oz, as she stares in horror at the red sand running through the hourglass. One major difference, though...our Witch is male...and he has orange hair and a Noo Yawk cackle.

    I loved "Bobwatch"...and when I received "You Were Never In Chicago" as a gift, four years ago, I enjoyed that even more. But I didn't stumble upon this blog until the final days of the Obama presidency. Even then, I lurked for over a year, as I did not want to piss the proprietor off, as so many others here have done in the past (Unfortunately for me, that's something at which I excel). Which was why didn't post here until I felt I understood the "tone" of this place, and until I knew what would fly, and what would crash and burn.

    I have enjoyed this site immensely for the past 15 months or so, and would be very saddened to see the plug get pulled. It's one of only four sites I still frequent daily...two are local, another is EGD, and the fourth is a private messageboard I have posted on for many years.

    Perhaps the time of year has something to do with your discouragement, Mr S...my wife and I (and many others we know) agree that February and March are the "Dog Days" of the calendar year, especially for those of us stuck in Midwestern cities. Despite the lengthening daylight, the weather forecast continues to be "mostly sucky"...it's still cold and still snowy. Winter seems endless, and everyone is sick of it, and we yearn for warmth and stong sunlight and greenery and sitting on the porch with an adult beverage, listening to the chirping birds. Some years, we even have to wait until May for all that.

    Funnily enough, I was just thinking to myself the other day about how the number of responses, and responders, apear to have fallen off sharply at EGD in recent months. Many familiar names have apparently moved on. But take heart, Mr S...this die-hard still appreciates your wordsmithing efforts, and would be sorry to see it all come to an end. I really would. Trust me.

    1. Grizz, yesterday I saw Robins and Red Winged Blackbirds in abundance as I walked around some park district athletic fields. Got a good dose of vitamin-D, walking 3 miles in the sunshine, too. I feel like a new man, today. Spring is upon us! Put the doldrums behind you.

    2. You're in Chicago, where "the lake is always east." I'm in Cleveland, where "the lake is always north." Consequently, we have much different weather patterns than Chicago has. We're mostly downwind of all that water, and/or ice. Our snow begins earlier and ends later, often lasting well into April.

      The northerly lake breezes keep us quite chilly in springtime, and the clouds they produce block more of the sun. St. Patrick's Day in Chicago really does celebrate the arrival of spring. But here, on the "wrong" side (leeward side) of Lake Erie, it's still cold, blustery, and often snowy for the March 17th parade. Spring will not truly be upon us for about another month. And it's when winter's almost over that people here really go nuts, as they wait for it to finally end.

  9. We must presume that your closing invocation of "tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow" is not a suggestion that EGDD is "told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

    I like the Hecht poem. Must look her up.


  10. Keep on posting - for yourself and others who follow you. It inspires others to keep plugging away at their endeavors.

  11. Brings to mind the Flaming Lips' wonderful "Do You Realize?"

  12. I very selfishly hope you keep blogging.
    Lilly's dad, Larry

  13. As usual, your few words provide much food for thought and a gamut of emotions. Thank you-

  14. I was tempted to add my own commentary to your musings and the occasional feeling that life is futile after a certain age, but this piece is perfect the way it is. It conjures up questions about the meaning of life that are important.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.