But, it didn’t matter that my mother suspected and knew that I was a writer. It was expected of me to take care of my share of the responsibility of making our way in the world as a family. In those days, also, it was unheard of, by us certainly, that to get any help, even from members of our own family, let alone from the government, which would have been disgraceful. Thank God that that kind of folly in thinking is obsolete. There is a temptation to feel, ‘Well, we all made it; why can’t these other poor people make it?’ And, of course, nothing is more than stupid than that attitude. I must confess that I find that attitude among many countrymen of my own who do find themselves taking undue pride in their own sense of ability — of being equal to any situation and of seeing it through and improving it and so on. And then, putting that against other people who don’t have that and thereby implying that the other people are lazy. Not taking into account the whole different structure and identity and a people who have survived for centuries under very harsh conditions and members of a very great culture and I am talking about the Indians, to begin with, in the Valley — the San Joaquin Valley, in Fresno, in Tulare and the mountains and there are many tribes of them, of different kinds and I am talking about, also, the Mestizos, the mixtures of Mexican, Spaniards with Indians, making the Mexican. And I am talking about any minority which is considered by anybody as being innately of itself indolent. This kind of narrow thinking is a temptation to all sorts of people and one has to be sympathetic with the people who are wrong, too, you see. It is not enough just to be sympathetic with the people who are belittled; it is necessary to be sympathetic with the people who belittle them. So, in worrying about the persecuted, one is obliged also to worry about the persecutors. I consider that a basic measure of growth.
William Saroyan
A Faint Music by Robert HassMaybe you need to write a poem about grace.When everything broken is broken,and everything dead is dead,and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,and the heroine has studied her face and its defectsremorselessly and the pain they thought might,as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselveshas lost its novelty and not released them,and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,watching the others go about their days—likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—that self-love is the one weedy stalkof every human blossoming and understood,therefore, why they had been, all their lives,in such a fury to defend it and that no one—except some almost inconceivable saint in his poolof poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automaticlife’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.As in the story a friend told once about the timehe tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots and then ash.He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.And in the salt air he thought about the word seafood,that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.No one said landfood. He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perchhe’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelpalong the coast—and he realized that the reason for the wordwas crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwisethe restaurants could just put fish up on their signs,and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled upon the girder like a child—the sun was going downand he felt a little better and afraid. He put on the jackethe’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railingcarefully and drove home to an empty house.There was a pair of her lemon yellow pantieshanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.A faint russet in the crotch that made him sickwith rage and grief. He knew more or lesswhere she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tearsin her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. God,she’d say, you are so good for me. Winking lights,a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.You’re sad, he’d say. Yes. Thinking about Nick?Yes, she’d say and cry. I tried so hard, sobbing now,I really tried so hard. And then he’d hold her for a while—Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall—and then they’d fuck again and she would cry some more,and go to sleep.And he, he would play that sceneonce only, once and a half and tell himselfthat he was going to carry it for a very long timeand that there was nothing he could dobut carry it. He went out onto the porch and listenedto the forest in the summer dark, madrone barkcracking and curling as the cold came up.It’s not the story though, not the friendleaning toward you, saying And then I realized—,which is the part of stories one never quite believes.I had the idea that the world’s so full of painit must sometimes make a kind of singing.And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—First an ego and then pain and then the singing
Robert Hass