Not Waving but Drowning

I received this email:

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read “Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a “Obama 08″ tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference–just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need–the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I ‘ve decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient needed money more. I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

At first I assumed it was written by the person who sent it to me, and I was disheartened to think so. Then I wondered whether the “I” in the story was someone else and it had been forwarded.

Finally I suspected that this story was completely constructed and intended to go viral so this morning I did a Google search on the first line of the story, and found 445 matches.

Gotcha! Even though I am trained as a a poet, a writer, a teacher and a critic not to assume that the “I” is the writer, I got caught assuming that the writer of the story was the person who sent it to me.

Yes,  445 matches for the exact wording, most of the postings from the past few days. It can be found on a variety of sites and message boards, some listed below, generating both laudatory comments like  “you’re awesome” and many people who have found this an excuse to just not tip their servers at all to people who are questioning this action and line of reasoning.

Here are some example links:

  1. MSNBC – Politics – Vote Obama, I need the money

    Oct 22, 2008 10/22/08 02:39 AM. Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read. ” Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed. boards.msn.com/MSNBCboards/thread.aspx?threadid=822013 – 22 hours ago – Similar pages
  2. OPEN THREAD — BLOG! « GretaWire

    Oct 22, 2008 Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that readVote Obama, I need the money.’ I laughed. gretawire.foxnews.com/2008/10/22/open-thread-blog-112/comment-page-11/ – 11 hours ago – Similar pages
  3. Redistributing The Wealth – Catholic Answers Forums

    Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that readVote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed. Once in the restaurant my server had on a forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=4322834 – 68k – CachedSimilar pages

  4. JBlog Central – The Jewish Blog Network | Sharing The Wealth….

    Oct 21, 2008 Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign the readVote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed. Once in the restaurant my http://www.israelforum.com/blog_article.php?aid=1757260 – 21 hours ago – Similar pages
  5. Not a Joke. Not Funny. Not Waving but Drowning. « art predator

    Oct 22, 2008 … 10/22/08 02:39 AM. Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read. ” Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed.
    artpredator.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/not-funny-not-waving-but-drowning/ – 1 hour ago – Similar pages

During the time it took me to create this post, more turned up, and this one will add to the cacophony in the echo chamber of modern politics. This story has gone viral in more ways than one.  Is this the world we want to live in?

I am reminded of Stevie Smith’s poem, “Not waving but Drowning”

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

For a  picture of the poet Stevie Smith and to hear her read the poem, go here.

And please vote for candidates who recognize that many of us aren’t waving, but drowning.

(Note: A similar post can be found on the art predator google link above or here

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Ventura College Poetry Reading in J-3

On Thursday October 16, from 12:30-1:20pm, poet and blogger Gwendolyn Alley (aka Art Predator) will give a reading, discuss process, practice, craft, and approaches to writing for Kelly Peinado’s Introduction to Poetry Class in J-3 Ventura College on Telegraph Road between Day Road and Ashwood in Ventura. She will bring broadsides ($7-10) first published in ArtLife Limited Editions and books including between sleeps: poems from the 3:15 experiment 1993-2005 ($12) which she and Danika Dinsmore co-edited in 2006 (en theos press).

From 1996-2004, Alley published three dozen poetry and art broadsides in ARTLIFE Limited Editions; several of these works are published also at http://www.art-life.com/.  Alley has participated in the 3:15 experiment since 2001, and in 2007, she facilitated the Experiment . Many of her 3:15 Experiment poems can be found at http://315experiment.com/.

In August 2008, Alley began creating videos which combine spoken word, sound, and image. Her video poem “Shishilop Project” was accepted by GuerrillaReads for its September issue. Below is the link for “State of Optimism” with music by Alley and art by Reed Seifer:

Alley’s primary blog is the Art Predator: http://artpredator.wordpress.com; she also participates in the collaborative experimental poetry site, The Orchid Room. Her youtube channel is http://www.youtube.com/user/theartpredator.

The eclectic Art Predator site includes many of Alley’s ArtLife broadsides, 3:15 poems, an on-going collection of her own spoken word videos with music and images, as well as adventures in wine, travel, and song.

The event is free and open to the public.

Alley's letterpress business cards produced with Lettre Sauvage

Poet Hayden Carruth 8/3/21-9/29/08

Hayden Carruth 1921-2008

The Impossible Indispensibility of the Ars Poetica
by Hayden Carruth

But of course the poem is not an assertion. Do you see? When I wrote

That all my poems over the long years before I met you made you come true,

And that the poems for you since then have made you in yourself become more true,

I did not mean that the poems created or invented you. How many have foundered

In that sargasso! No, what I have been trying to say

Is that neither of the quaint immemorial views of poetry is adequate for us.

A poem is not an expression, nor is it an object. Yet it somewhat partakes of both. What a poem is

Is never to be known, for which I have learned to be grateful. But the aspect in which I see my own

Is as the act of love. The poem is a gift, a bestowal.

The poem is for us what instinct is for animals, a continuing and chiefly unthought corroboration of essence

(Thought thought, ours and the animals’, is still useful).

Why otherwise is the earliest always the most important, the formative? The Iliad, the Odyssey, the book of Genesis,

These were acts of Love, I mean deeply felt gestures, which continuously bestow upon us

What we are. And if I do not know which poem of mine

Was my earliest gift to you,

Except that it had to have been written about someone else,

Nevertheless it was the gesture accruing value to you, your essence, while you were still a child, and thereafter

Across all these years. And see how much

Has come from that first sonnet after our loving began, the one

That was a kiss, a gift, a bestowal. This is the paradigm of fecundity. I think the poem is not

Transparent, as some have said, nor a looking glass, as some have also said,

Yet it has a quality of disappearance

In its cage of visibility. It disperses among the words. It is a fluidity, a vapor, of love.

This, the instinctual, is what caused me to write, “Do you see?” instead of “Don’t you see?” in the first line

Of this poem, this loving treatise, which is what gives away the poem

And gives it all to you.

BIO: Hayden Carruth according to Poets.org

The Impossible Indispensibility of the Ars Poetica
by Hayden Carruth

Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 page 352
Copper Canyon Press 1992
winner of the National Book Crtiics Circle Award

His lines are so long, so voluptuous–I wonder if he wrote on legal pads sideways. I’ve tried to transcribe the lines accurately but when in doubt, he capitalized each new line.

August 3, 1921-September 29, 2008.

Among the 10 poets and writers he named  in 1991 as having influenced his work and were his close friends, he named Raymond Carver, Wendell Berry, Galway Kinnell, Denise Levertov, Henry Rago, JV Cunningham, George Dennison, David Budbill, Adrienne Rich and Carolyn Kizer. Look for poems by Ray Carver and by Wendell Berry on this blog.

Here’s a poem about Ray Carver by Hayden Carruth read by him in May 2008:

Here he reads one of his most well-known poems, “Emergency Haying” :

He described himself as “A duck blown out to sea and still squawking.” Fortunately, we can still hear him even when he’s flown farther than we can see him.