Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Problem with Poetry, Get After It, Bad Cat Redux

I have been looking for a poem to read at the memorial of the young man who died recently. Death is supposed to be the subject matter best suited to poets, and the obvious purview of poetry, but after perusing many poems on the topic, I’m now convinced that most poets don’t know how to write about it very effectively. We are good at writing about our personal pain and our own cynicism and our clever detachment from both, but as a group, I’m not convinced that we have much of a grip on the topic of death. The two groups of poets who I find write about death the most effectively and clear-headedly are physicians and war veterans, and I don’t know of many who are poets. I wish that more doctors and vets wrote poetry, but alas, that is not the case, and I think that’s a huge loss. Their insights count at least as much as English majors with pricey MFA’s. We need to design poetry workshops specifically for docs and vets. I’m fully up to spearhead this. Who’s with me??

Speaking of vets: At work, all of the sudden I am being ferried off to many “leadership summits” and classes and such, as though something is being expected of me. (Also, in keeping with this, I had to take a test on the nature of my soul, for which I have not yet received my results. It’s a bit unnerving.) At any rate, in Googling “effective leadership,” I came across Jocko Willink, an ex-Navy Seal who now runs a corporate consulting firm that provides leadership coaching for executives. I found his philosophy of Extreme Ownership compelling and started following him on Twitter, which I regret now, because every morning when I log on to Twitter, I am treated to a stark, black-and-white photo of his thick, hairy forearm with his watch reading “4:30 a.m.” and some supposedly inspirational quote like “Get After It!” or "No Excuses!", firing him up for his impending beast-mode workout. I don’t need that guilt when it’s been a heroic effort to tear myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m., pour myself a mug of coffee, and stumble to my computer for a little mindless surfing. There is no universe in which I am going get out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and do anything remotely physical, much less a workout that leaves blood splatters on the gym floor, like Jocko’s. Why is everyone so exhausting nowadays? So much doing. So much ambition. Bleh.

After dealing with Buddy going in and out multiple times last night, I complained to Mr. Typist this morning about my lack of sleep, and he told me that Buddy has once again been fighting with Big Gray Cat (aka “Miles, Get Inside!”) As Buddy was lounging on the sofa this morning, I informed him in no uncertain terms that he was a Bad Cat. In response, he looked me straight in the eye…and yawned. This is the kind of psychopathic delinquent I am dealing with. He was bored by the displeasure of his owner and so inured to his own corruption that all he could do was yawn when called out on his reprobate ways. It’s official, folks. I do not “own a pet.” I harbor a thug. I don’t know how this happened. He seemed so sweet when I first saw him in the window of the pet store, but I realize now that’s how they get you. All animals look sweet in the windows of pet stores. It’s a trick. There should be some sort of mandated warning, like they put on cigarette packs: “This animal only looks sweet because he/she is housed in the window of a pet store. Their true character cannot be inferred from their current circumstances.”

At any rate, until next week, here’s something sweet and pretty to listen to:

--Kristen McHenry

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