Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thoughts on Productivity

A telegram from Dorothy Parker to her editor, 1945

"I don't believe that we are what we do although many thinkers argue otherwise. I believe that what we do is, very often, a poor approximation of what we are -- an imperfect manifestation of a much better totality. Even the best of us sometimes bite off, as it were, less than we can chew. When Natasha bites William she's saying only part of what she wants to say to him. She's saying, William! Wake up! Remember! But that gets lost in a haze of pain, his."

-- Donald Barthelme, "Jaws"

new, terrible obstacles seem unsurmountable 
when rising up
but then, after showing teeth, fall back 
and circle, distracted.
on days when i cannot paint am i still 
a painter?
on days when i do not make anything 
am i still one of the good ones
leaning imperceptibly into the green?
my identity as a maker grids everything, 
allows for the job,
the sadness. makes poverty bearable, 
though it still hurts.
everything hurts but not as much as we 
think it will. a little less.
or, if two things hurt, the relief of one, 
especially before relief was expected,
feels better than anything.
the gods which guide my happiness are 
carved from rock and far away, 
faceless walls of sediment shifting 
in their beds, drybrushed.
sleeping on the couch does not 
make it easier.
sometimes i think that because i have
not yet done all that i am capable of
i am nothing. this is the kind of shit that 
gets me into trouble. 
but you see where it comes from. if we are
makers above all (are we?)
and we do not make, or do not make
the best we can make, 
then all of our losses lose their reasons.
we want to feel like this is worth it. 
but that's only if you 
think of a loss as one half of a ratio, 
when really it's more like 
the animals we sleep with, 
who have no reasons for being born 
but still give us comfort and 
companionship in the night. we love them
for being with us.
we can love our losses in this way too.
i believe i am worth the same no matter 
what i do. a steady line. 
i learned that in a self-help book but it's true. 
there is more in what i paint than my life
as a painter and i pray for the day 
i lose track of my hands like i've always 
dreamed of. 
then i will be, not new to myself, but old 
like a god, like a huge forever iceberg in antarctica,
and i will navigate around myself like an 
off-course fishing boat, 
big men standing on the deck, looking up
and then, slowly, down.

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