It is becoming clear that my job wants to eat me, and spit out the spent, bruised corpse.

I work in abstracts. It is the equivalent of pushing shapes through holes, like a child's toy. The difference is that there are 200000 holes, and half a million shapes that change almost randomly. I have to push all the shapes through all the holes as quick as I can, otherwise my phone starts ringing. I'm fortunate that I have a lot of resources to refer to, and helpful, knowledgeable coworkers that help me through this process.

However, no amount of support will help me if I go and do something stupid because I wasn't paying attention. That is what happened this weekend. I have been working on this one piece for the last three days, breaking only to have some company over for a few hours Friday night, and running errands for a few hours yesterday. The other time I have been sitting here in front of my remote terminal, trying to taunt some data into going through the hole.

But it's not going to go through the hole, because I am a gigantic dumbass. I forgot this piece didn't fit earlier in the month. It fell off the table, and I didn't notice it until I saw it blow up in front of my face Friday afternoon. My general incompetence and willingness to make wild assumptions is a growing problem with my work, and my inability to make any chance to that situation is really frustrating me. I've got checklists and charts covering my desk, and yet things still manage to seep thorough the cracks. One of these days I will make a truly gigantic mistake, and that will be the end of that.

This situation does not sit well with me at all. I don't think that I will ever be exceptionally good at this job, nor will I ever come to a place within myself where the little, stupid mistakes manage to disappear. I take it as an overarching criticism of my life in general. There are so many other things in my life that I don't pay enough attention to. There are so many people in my life that I haven't talked to in ages, blurred over in the swift but seemingly pointless passage of time. I don't know why this is the way things are, and I feel powerless to make any kind of effective change. This of course leads to the lack of effective change.

I feel defective. I just don't want that defect to affect others like it is doing right now.

It's still alive.

We showed up an hour early and still only managed to get one of the booths in the back. It's a rare night when this place doesn't have a crowd and tonight, especially would be packed. I looked ahead. I knew.

You see, it's 21 tonight. Not the lounge -- that turned 100 this year, depending on how you count. Tonight, the cake belongs to an art form. The poetry slam started in 1986 by the same man who was on the stage tonight. I was three. Now 24, I sit in awe of some of the things I hear in these seats.

This was where it all started. Not technically at the Green Mill lounge, but here in this unbroken line of poets that migrated here from the Get Me High Lounge when it closed its doors for good. The ringmaster is the same, the venue different, but even now there are people who travel from everywhere to perform here at this particular slam.

By the time he, Marc Smith (an ornery, but gentle hearted man), climbed on stage and started the traditional poem that marks the start of the slam, it was standing room only and the perfectly preserved 1920s glory of the bar was covered in the faintest hint of smoke. Just the way it should be.

I only really studied dead people in my classes. 17 years of school and an English degree, and I still have yet to study a single poet with a beating heart. Even the most modern class I took, Literature and AIDS, looked at people 10 years dead. I have heard it said that the poet is dead, an archaism that will fade like the silent movie. I always shake my head at this, but I can count on one hand how many of my current corporate co-workers have read a single verse since they left their school days behind.

I start teaching next year. Not real teaching, but the non-paid, training wheels kind. I will get in front of a class of students who will wonder what the fuck poetry is and why they should care. I will get in front of them and will probably have to go through ten dead white guys before I get to anyone that shares anything with them. I sit here tonight watching the poets work and I wish I could take my kids here, first day of class, in this smokey lounge and watch the blood run through its veins still. I want them to see the cavalcade of people, of all shapes, colors, orientations, and sizes, go up on stage and read poems as varied as they are. I want them to see this as something still breathing.

It's still alive. And I don't think it will be stopping anytime soon.

> ♥ <

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