“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” – T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
I wrote a lot of poems while at my last job. Yes, while. On the clock sometimes under the guise of bathroom breaks, I confess. But most of the time, at lunch. Not only were the ones I read tools of survival. But also the ones I wrote. Xanax was not enough.
It would do little good to tell you all of what I had to do in that cubicle. (Actually, it was many cubicles because every time you made a friend next to you, they moved you. Friendship and conversation were not efficient.) Our job was one of constant frenzy. I worked for a bank and my department was an internal help line for branches. When I took the job, you answered the phone and did everything you could to assist the person on the other end. I enjoyed it because I knew what it looked like and felt like to be in the branch and not be able to find a document, etc.
But that was not efficient. And my department generated no real income for the bank, so efficiency was naturally a driving force.
Not long after I transferred into that department, the job changed and the primary way we assisted the branches was through “chat.” And by the time I left, that is all we were doing. Except that we were doing two at a time. And as soon as we finished one, another chat with a dire problem would pop up. All day long. It never let up. It was frantic. Thus the poems. I knew of at least three others beside myself who were on Xanax or some other anxiety medication.
As far as I knew, I was the only one on poems.
When I found out T.S. Eliot was a banker, I was elated. I immediately went and bought a book of his poems featuring The Waste Land (with a great introduction by Mary Karr) during my lunch break. I also found a short biography. All this encouraged me. I did not always understand his poetry, but I was okay with that. I was so discouraged about my job and full of anxiety, I understood little about anything. The Waste Land was able to say something to me even when I could not understand what he was saying.
“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” – T.S. Eliot
Worry and anxiety are everywhere now. There is so much chaos and confusion and anger and suspicion and disappointment.
When Christ teaches those who would listen to him, “Do not worry about your life…” in the Sermon on the Mount, he is saying something about reality. And it is not a reality that is no less real because it is unseen. He is saying, “If you follow me and trust me, you will be made citizens of my kingdom and in that kingdom there is no reason to worry. You are safe from the need to worry.”
The following poem anticipates the desire for such a kingdom.
is what she told me
when I thanked her
for her understanding.
And as the words sat
there on the screen,
I could not help but
think of, “No trespassing.”
And that got me
what if we had
worry had to keep out?
Worries were simply
And in that space – we
from what sat outside,
we could not bring them in even if tried.