I’ve talked twice recently with longstanding professional artists about legacy.
In recent months, I’ve transitioned from the workaday career to the heart-centered path I’ve long, long fantasized about and feel simply is a matter of humanity. The priority.
I wrote poetry during that time, some of which speaks to my inner workings during that workaday stretch. Here is a poem I wrote while sitting in rush hour traffic in 2010. I was on my way home from work at a pet food company.
Sitting in traffic
I feel heartbeats slipping
down the hourglass’ tireless
throat and dial down
Now, Humanitou is my platform for expressing and developing the authentic me with something of meaning to share. It’s my practice and my tool for giving voice to my best self, and the humanness and others.
But I still question myself.
So I wonder when I sit back to watch Netflix with my wife each evening after our boys are in bed if I’m wasting what I have to offer, if I’m being lazy, if I’m failing.
It occurs to me I’m talking about two things: legacy and enoughness.
For someone to create prolifically hints at legacy. Otherwise, where does all their work — the lasting energy of what they have put out to the world — go?
Even if we only hold onto our work in digital form, it piles up in a virtual landscape of files and folders and invisible clouds. What are we to do with those remnants when our bones are fed back into the earth?
And to crush the clock every day, simply because we can? Or because now I love how, what, who and why I’m engaging in life more than ever?
Doing that tells me I am trying to apply the workaday clock-punching mentality I always dreaded to myself and my life’s work. I’ve been so trained.
I’ve always protested that mentality, saying the quality and value I provide in my work has very little to do with the time I spend on it, be it a little or a lot. The work and its meaning are the thing.
I drop off my sons each morning. I pick them up each afternoon. The hours between are my time to do my life’s work. My family gets priority for my time beyond those boundaries, and as needed.
Come to think of it, that also carries a rich legacy. The richest.
I used to read poetry to my sons when they were in the womb. And throughout the pregnancy with our first son, I wrote it for him.
For example, I wrote “While I Was Away” on June 5, 2010. I was on a work trip for the aforementioned pet food company:
While I Was Away
If you missed my reading bedtime poetry
the first weekend in June of the year
of your birth … If you wondered
where Sandburg and Kooser,
Collins and Harrison, and so
many poetas Cubanos went while my voice
fell silent, deep in the South for
the premise of making a living (while
foregoing a life), know
I missed it, too, that
on a muggy Saturday morn in
Georgia, I sat through a
presentation about gut health
and fecal this-and-that in dogs, staring
into an empty coffee cup, and hoping
you have been busy, writing into
your own sense of poetry
in my absence, tapping verses
with the tips of your fingers and
toes, giving Mama smiles and company,
love and hope more intimate and accurate
than the pens of Harrison and Collings,
Kooser and Sandburg could dream, streaming
the rhythms of Taos new and bold and filled
Know I missed reading bedtime poetry
the first weekend in June
of the year of your birth
while I was away.
When my sons were babies, I told them: You are my poems of greatest consequence, and always will be.
When I was younger — pre-parenthood — I would have thought it hokey to say, but that has to be my truest legacy, the one that counts.
The rest just is. Enough.
Title Photo: Pablo García Saldaña