At Work

Ondu pinhole camera film image by author (of a writing date with my daughter)

The Romantics wrote poems
to pay for European walking tours
Wordsworth and Coleridge
traipsing across the Alps
with boots and packs
made of words.

Jules Verne quit his job
on the stock market, having
brokered himself such a
golden position, penning
the extraordinary, he poured
out jingling tickets with
his morning cereal.

In classic Russian novels
there are poets by trade
not just by name or nature
fiery brooding legends
in their own lunchtimes
arguing around the samovar
and over glasses of vodka,
always wary of the pistols
lurking in a drawer,
the fearsome rope strung
in innocence across
the handle of a door.

Mary Oliver earned her keep,
by her own admission,
at uninteresting jobs
to keep her mind free and wild
rising in the pre-dawn darkness
to illuminate the page with
her daily genius.

The University of Texas’
College of Fine Arts used to sell
a t-shirt that cheekily asked
if you’d like fries with that

Once, I was paid $20
for a photograph published
in a magazine
read mostly, no doubt,
by the vast commodity
of artists who hunger
in their deepest bellies
to be treated like their
work is worthy
of a paycheck,
for the effluence
of their creative efforts
to be given more than
just a pat on the back.

It ain’t a living,
but it’s living.


The details in this poem are not exhaustively researched, so please don’t assume it’s all historically accurate (except for the part about the t-shirt, because I considered buying one, being a CoFA graduate myself and appreciating the comedy of it). It seems like a lot of writers, especially on Medium, spend a lot of time and energy discussing how to make a living at it. I’ve thrown in the towel on that little piece of pie-in-the-sky, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still ponder it and at least half wish it could really happen without having to completely compromise everything in order to work the system. . . . .

By the way THIS is the magazine that paid me for publishing one of my photos. Y’all go check them out and give them some love!

Published by amyjasek

Film photographer, mother, positively passionate about life in general, Texan : )

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