Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Get to Work, Luco

Welcome to my office. I should be working, grading these papers (did you not know that I teach? Well, I do not, but I try to help my prison guard sometimes, I extend her this mercy even though she would never do this for me), but a line of poetry is repeating in my mind. Maybe you know it. It is from the poem "Esse" by Czeslaw Milosz. It is the last line:

"A sponge, suffering because it cannot saturate itself; a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees."

Why does this line so disturb me? It is because it gets at something I know deeply. Every living being is formed with the capacity for suffering, each has within them a lack of something (and at least a dim awareness of this); even the most basic life forms, then, feel this loss within them - a pulsing ache, a shiver of knowledge of paucity, and whether or not they resign themselves to this (and perhaps thus embrace [and therefore salve?] it), this lack, this capacity for suffering, persists.

There is a paucity in my life; a paucity of recognition.

I work so arduously to help the prison guard with these papers, and does she ever even notice? The only kind of response I have gotten from her is that she will sometimes shoo me off the table.

The indignity! Why she shoos me, I do not know. Perhaps she is intimidated by my expert handling of grammar. Perhaps she feels inadequate when she sees the work I have accomplished. There is no way of knowing because every time I attempt to communicate with her, we end up staring into each other's eyes and nothing more. She feels the deep rumbling of my purr and does not recognize it for awkwardness or embarrassment; she believes me happy and fulfilled. 

I am not in a hurry to disabuse her of this thought. If it allows her some naive happiness, then so be it. What ill does it cause? Although she is my tormentor, she is also my kin in suffering; I will grant her that. Have you read Milosz's poem "Be Like Others?" It reminds me a bit of our situation. 

The poem begins with the idea that you should "consider yourself lucky if your life followed the pattern of life of your neighbors.... and [you] could meet peacefully the darkening days of old age." The poem continues in the second stanza with this:

"Think of those who were refused a blessed resemblance to their fellow men. Of those who tried hard to act correctly, so that they would be spoken of no worse than their kin, but who did not succeed in anything, for whom everything would go wrong because of some invisible flaw. And who at last for that undeserved affliction would receive the punishment of loneliness, and who did not even try to hide their fate."

And it continues: "They, a nation of the excluded, whose day begins and ends with the awareness of failure." I can only assume that the prison guard does not count herself among this nation. She seems so often happy, and so completely ignorant of my true nature.

I should be president of this nation.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Luco for President of the Nation of the Excluded 2011.