What Work Is

Heading into the evening, Edinburgh

Heading into the evening, Edinburgh

16 January 2013
10:36 pm

T. —

It has been a very engaging day. My characteristic for the day was strength and I think it has worked. Again, I’m hitting about 60 – 70% productivity. It feels really great to only have a few small things to move towards tomorrow. It feels really engaging to be involved in what is going on, to create my life again instead of just allowing it to pass. I’m not entirely sure what changed, but I think that’s just the nature of things sometimes: they shift without us seeing it completely.

My version of "to-do"s

My version of “to-do”s

Above, a screen-shot from my desktop with electronic sticky notes. I like them. I find them quite charming. Like a harmless, sweet reminder. Like someone who would stick post-its all over a room for me to tell me a message, to tell me they loved me, to tell me all kinds of musings. I should be so lucky as to communicate in post-its.


The two quotes I loved from Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James:

Yesterday they had only known that they were happy; now they felt joy’s irradiating power in each nerve of their being.


She moved closer to him and for a moment they sat in silence. She said, ‘We are neither of us the people we were then. Let us look on the past only as it gives us pleasure, and to the future with confidence and hope.’


I started reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami today, and I’ve already made a mental note of some beautiful phrases and passages. That will be part of my letter tomorrow, no doubt.

On the walk into the city center today, I was listening to a poetry reading by Philip Levine, which reminds me how much I have always had the wind knocked out of me at even the mere sight of this poem:

What Work Is
Philip Levine

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is — if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.






3 thoughts on “What Work Is

  1. I have digital post-its on my desktop, too! And Norwegian Wood is one of my absolute favourite books ever. I love Haruki Murakami. Let me know what you think of it. Is this your first time reading him?


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