After every single query, I go and take a nap. I’d just rather be writing or dreaming. The submission process is all business and with it, the price of fame. Some of the best professors have told me constantly: “Never write for the market! Writing should be a labor of love!” I am not going to argue, I agree. It shouldn’t be about the money. Probably why so many authors are doing self-publishing these days. What a pain!
You can see my story for September and October is titled: ‘Mendicant’. I have always had a soft spot for the homeless, beggars (mendicants), whatever you want to call, ‘the armies of the road’. My first real awareness came at fifteen years of age. Jethro Tull’s, Ian Anderson wrote ‘Aqualung’ about a homeless man in England. It hit the charts in 1971 and became a big hit. I was living with my mother at the time, barely getting by. I knew what it was like to be poor, just one tick away from homelessness ourselves.
When the song came out, I was intrigued, than inspired. The other kids in my small town Iowa school were aware of my situation, yet, compassion was not in fashion. I was just scum to most of them. I was rarely in favor, and when I was verbally attacked, either in class or in the halls for dressing in rags, I would loudly resonate the opening notes of the song. Six obnoxiously grating sounds, “DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DAAAAAH-DUNT!” projected to make a point (you will just have to hear the song yourself to know what I mean). They didn’t get it, and that was the fun of it. Those who knew the song, where usually friends of mine, who did.I would hear the laughter echo from the classrooms as I passed the doorways.Shortly followed by a trip to the principal’s office. Nobody there seemed to really understand poverty. Being poor just meant you didn’t belong in their world. Ian Anderson of the band, Jethro Tull, wrote this about his song:
“This song deals with our reaction to the homeless population. "A guilt-ridden song of confusion about how you deal with beggars, the homeless." Elaborating in the 40th anniversary reissue of the album, he said, "It's about our reaction, of guilt, distaste, awkwardness and confusion, all these things that we feel when we're confronted with the reality of the homeless. You see someone who's clearly in desperate need of some help, whether it's a few coins, or the contents of your wallet, and you blank them out. The more you live in that business-driven, commercially driven lifestyle, you can just cease to see them.”
It is always the children that break my heart and of course, it is this, that the fundraisers use to help relieve some people of the guilt. “Yes, I gave at the office.” This way one does not have to face the human with their hand out. Sadly, the children on the average only see about 10% of that money.
I see my share of the poor here in Iowa City. I exited the bookstore last Wednesday after four hours of writing and revising a story. A middle-aged woman in Indian garb, her bindi dot firmly in place, immediately approached me. The hand that pulled her wee boy along covered in henna, the other stretched out to me. She begged me for something, anything to help feed the child. I saw the pain in her eyes and the fear in the boys. I handed her all the loose bills I had in my pocket. She thanked me in English,and then stated something in what was probably Hindi. Yet, it was when the wee boy reached out and patted me twice on my knee, smiling so genuinely up into my face, that I almost broke, and I am not one to openly weep in public.
I have always felt that being poor was just a natural state of existence. That it was the pursuit of wealth that was unsound and that the inability to share, was abnormal. I don’t blame people for building an illusion to live in, one that doesn’t include the poverty-stricken. It is fear that drives such things, and maybe the thought that sits at the back of everyone’s mind is, that we are all, just one click away from the street.