There’s not much poetry of life to be found in my fast food business. This is a problem that may not keep you awake nights; you probably don’t often think about burgers or poetry. But that’s where I spent the past 32 years of my life. In Burgerland it’s all about delivery time, instant gratification, fill me up ASAP. You don’t even get out of the car. Speed, speed, speed! That’s what counts.
A poetic equivalent to quick service food? It’s a stretch, but stretching is what I do. Take the 17 syllable haiku poetry. That’s also about speed and a quick take. While my friends in our college town choke when I mention poetry and burgers in the same sentence, they only do that because they are elitists. You are not an elitist so cut me some slack here.
Haiku and burgers are consumed in an instant and add something to our inner self. We are what we eat, but we are also the literature and poetry we chose. It is all very Zen. Think of the Zen monk boring his audience about cosmic unity in a hot auditorium. One exasperated guy stands up in the back and shouts:
“We can’t hear you. Stand closer to the microphone!!”
Without even taking a breath the monk intoned,
“I am one with the microphone.”
Zen or no Zen, we are what we eat as well as the literature and poetry we consume. In my subjective world, this makes sense. Why is it offensive? Aesthetics and poetry are high minded and good. Greasy fast food equates to gluttony and is despicable. But that’s wrong. Think of all the moms in their Plymouth van full of hungry 12 year old baseball players. She is late and trying to get the kids fed and to the game on time. The pickup window isn’t despicable to her. It’s a life saver. It meets her needs. Poetry does not even come close.
So there it is, the polar dimensions of the muddled planet where I live. I walk along the edge between my intellectual, aesthetic friends on one side and my customers; mom in her Plymouth. Neither college guys nor the fast food guys trust me because I’m loyal to neither. Sitting on the fault line between these forces is not comfortable because I am unable to reconcile the two.
Strangely, I’m proud of this mixed marriage. I flatter myself with the hope that the fracture between two grinding tectonic plates will allow some creative lava to spew out.
James Baldwin’s book The Cross of Redemption writes of Shakespeare “The greatest poet in the English language found his poetry where poetry is found: in the lives of the people.”
Surely that includes both intellectuals as well as mom in the van.