Its Own Cure

Today I taught in Ж_________ for two hours after school. No one threw fireworks at us and even the most vicious or painfully shy kids repeated “A is for apple.” I teach two groups, one right after another, the exact same lesson. There are four girls who study in the first group, and then stay and repeat the lesson verbatim in the second group. They don’t get bored. One of them, Iliana, told me her dream is to study at a language school and travel the world, to meet “many different people.” It sounds played-out to Americans, but Iliana lives among many people who have never been west of Shumen, and studies with children who think that England is one of the United States, and that it’s possible to travel from Bulgaria to Miami on a train. 
 
Here’s a poem by Marge Piercy. “Inspirational poem” sounds like something that would be published under a title that begins with Chicken Soup for the... “Motivational poem?” Now I’m thinking of something printed under a photograph of an eagle framed in the waiting area outside the dentist’s office. I guess I’ll go with “Light a Fire Under Your Ass poem.” Piercy’s examples all use writers (that knitting gets the brush-off makes me smirk), but she offers sound advice for anyone with a dream, whether it’s to start a business or a family, or to reform a diseased education system. Truly living your dream doesn’t mean talking about living your dream, getting paid for living your dream, or being remembered for living your dream. It’s the act of working your hardest at what you love the most.
 

For the young who want to

Talent is what they say 
you have after the novel 
is published and favorably 
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really 
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Copyright 1980, Middlemarsh, Inc.
from THE MOON IS ALWAYS FEMALE 
Alfred A. Knopf, New York

 
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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Its Own Cure

  1. “Work is its own cure. You have to
    like it better than being loved.”
    That sums up my career/life/days as best as any.

  2. tanya

    I love it! What a great way to say it. (Hope you are doing well, btw. xo)

  3. “Work is what you have done
    after the play is produced
    and the audience claps.
    Before that friends keep asking
    when you are planning to go
    out and get a job.”

    This pretty much sums up my life. Thank you for sharing though…such a lovely poem.

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