Poem By Jacqui Thewless
After ten years of teaching English
at Spinoza HS I couldn’t take it anymore
and decided to devote myself
to writing full time.
when I received
my 47th consecutive rejection slip
ten months later
I had a nervous breakdown.
“I’m finished, ” I said
to my best buddy Sam Zellermayer.
“No cash left...gotta go back to work in September.”
“Bernstein, get a grip on yourself, ” he said,
“do you wanna wind up a mental case like Tom DeWitt? ”
“He never wore shoes
that don’t make him crazy.”
“In Brooklyn it does
with all that dog shit in the street.”
“Didn’t want anything
coming between him and Mother Earth
wrote a poem about him and his feet.”
“Get it published? ”
“They only want happy poems
or abstruse stuff
you gotta read fifty times
and still makes no sense.”
Zellermayer stared me
saw the desperation, my need to create
we’d known each other for two decades.
“I’ll help as much as I can, ” he finally said.
“You owe $38,000 on fourteen credit cards.”
“I wipe my ass with them paltry bills
so you know
it’s $52,000 on eighteen credit cards
and more in the mail
this is America, Bernstein.”
He paused, then said,
“I don’t worry
and you shouldn’t worry
that’s what really destroys a man.”
Then he marched to an ATM machine
lodged in a small bodega on the corner
whistling a merry tune
one I had never heard.