Sunday, June 13, 2010

work song in the key of f

Well. Sooner than we expected, the school system reviewers and the Superintendent made their recommendation against approval to the Board of Education, and in a whirlwind of events our public charter school application was denied on Tuesday. There was no way to catch my breath in time for Poetry Friday--these are the last days of the school year, after all--so here I am today with a poem that reflects (not sure how, but it does) a little of the hollow feeling that lurks beneath a determination to try again.

Work Song
Joshua Mehigan

This fastening, unfastening, and heaving--
this is our life. Whose life is it improving?
It topples some. Some others it will toughen.
Work is the safest way to fail, and often
the simplest way to love a son or daughter.
We come. We carp. We're fired. We worry later.

That man is strange. His calipers are shiny.
His hands are black. For lunch he brings baloney,
and, offered coffee, answers, "Thank you, no."
That man, with nothing evil left to do
and two small skills to stir some interest up,
fits in the curtained corner of a shop.

The best part of our life is disappearing
into the john to sneak a smoke, or staring
at screaming non-stop mills, our eyes unfocused,
or standing judging whose sick joke is sickest.
Yet nothing you could do could break our silence.
We are a check. Do not expect a balance.

That is a wrathful man becoming older,
a nobody like us, turned mortgage holder.
We stay until the bell. That man will stay
ten minutes more, so no one can complain.
Each day, by then, he's done exactly ten.
Ten what, exactly, no one here can say.


  1. "It topples some. Some others it will toughen."

    What a bitter disappointment. Don't topple. Not all the way. Not permanently.

    Who knows how or when, but good WILL come of all the work you've done.

  2. Thank you, Mary Lee. We've had many words of encouragement, and we will be soldiering on--just waiting for my calluses to harden. : )

  3. That stinks, Heidi. I don't know why I am always surprised, but it did not occur to me that they would say "no." Dang. Glad to hear that you will be soldiering on.

  4. Dear Heidi,
    I read your post this morning, and I just stared at this white box not knowing what to say. I'm sorry that you have to deal with this setback, but your students are very fortunate to have such an advocate in you.
    Thank you for this poem. I'm tucking it away for when I have "the hollow feeling that lurks behind a determination to try again" too.

  5. I'm so sorry to hear this, Heidi. Did they give you any constructive feedback?


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