Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coming to the end of a paying contract

bit of an antique woven saddlebag for a donkey (El Maestrazgo, Spain)

It was nearly the end of March. I learned that a teaching post I'd hoped I could apply for would not be opened. There were still some decent short-term contracts to be had, perhaps, but then those too had been axed. Suddenly, overnight, it looked like my time as a university professor was over--unless, of course, I were willing to teach for small sums per course, maximum of two courses per university. You could teach full time on such contracts and not scratch $20,000 a year before taxes. And no benefits. This was not a career. I wasn't getting any writing out as it was, just correcting, editing, tweaking, cultivating other peoples' work. This is not so bad, but I wanted some hand-holding with my own work. So I thought, I am eligible I think, for unemployment. Let's take it and see what else we can make.

The day I heard even the short term sessional positions were pulled, I was a bit jittery, worried. How would we manage? I went outside after my office hours, and walked up the street to the public library on Spring Garden Road. I sat in the window, looking out at the street, trying to calm myself by reading poetry. I found a lovely poem by Robin Blaser, an American poet who won the Griffin poetry prize in 2008.
In his collected works I found a poem he wrote in 1959 called "Quitting a Job". There are many fine lines in the poem but here is one I liked the most:

O, I expect the joy to last all summer. I'll have to hang onto it
with a gull's beak.

Later he writes:
Look at it!
The joy will outlast summer.
I quit my job.
I abolished money.

These lines gave me hope. And so I sat down and wrote my own poem:

Today, the end of something.

It comes abruptly;
in thirty seconds I am shuddered elsewhere.
I arrive in a place without paving, without shoulder or roundabout.
Wheels are no use here--
From this point: water.

And here's the strange thing:
I am giddy with relief. I must remember this,
today the first day warm enough to stop on the street and
turn your face to the light--
the sun alone ignites happiness.

Here's another thing: every person in the city's out, walking a dog;
three punk rock teens feed their apple to a starling.
Generosity is everywhere, and always surprising.

Look at it!
The joy will outlast summer!

KMC March 26, 2009

See Robert Blaser read at Berkeley in the Lunch Poems Series:

Dante cat asleep in my study

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Karin, have a nice summer too! What an inspiring post, you are very brave. It's amazing that you found that poem on the same day. I felt terrible after that class, but you will find something new that will appreciate everything you have to offer. Until then, I hope you have many more adventures!