What if your job
I fooled myself for years that all the jobs
I worked were better than one long career
because without a career I had more time
to spend not thinking about work. But really,
like you, I’d rather not work at all. What if
we got paid for nothing, not even for doing
things we love to do, like the singer in a band,
where sure, it’s fun but there’s still pressure
to perform, but just for living. There would be
no ties between what you get paid and what
you do. You breathe, you get a check.
Once I got paid for how many pounds of beans
I picked. I could pick more beans than most of
the other workers but I wasn’t any better, just faster
at picking beans. And anyway, all of us were
there just to get some money; who would pick
beans on an early summer morning if you
didn’t have to? We stood in line for the weigher
to weigh our beans, like we were waiting to get
picked for a playground team where you have to
wait until the very end just because you can’t dribble
the ball, waiting in line to see what we were worth.
For just one minute come here,
please come here, to where I am.
For a minute I want to stay
in this place without metaphor,
no embellishment, and tell
you, all of you, some sad thing.
My friend Bill is in a bad way;
his memory is shot and
there’s not a lot left of him.
He’s wandering the halls
of the Aspen Ridge Memory
Care Facility and that’s it;
it’s all he does, kicking
other old people’s asses
around the loop, spitting
on the floor as if he’s
remembering how he spit
on all those long
runs of ours, those long
beautiful runs we’d take
in the mountains. Now
he spits and takes his laps.
I just want to tell you
how hard this is, how
hard it is to slowly lose a friend.
And I know you know this
is about me. You know that.
So I’d like to tell you one
more final thing.
Let me tell you this now
in case I end up like my friend:
I love you all. On behalf of Bill,
we’d like to tell you something:
we love you all.
Casey Killingsworth’s poems have been accepted in Kimera, Timberline Review, COG, and other journals. He has a book of poems, A Handbook for Water, (Cranberry Press, 1995) as well as a book on the poetry of Langston Hughes, The Black and Blue Collar Blues (VDM, 2008). He graduated from Reed College. Casey lives in the Columbia River Gorge.