Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stress: a prose poem, sort of

There's nothing to say at the moment about which trends in popular media or literature please me or offer me a prickly kiss, but I did come across an old sociology book, from the fifties, called "The Stress of Everyday Life" at D.G.Wills Books . It was less the subject matter that made me pick up the used book than it was the title's type style; blocky, bold,all capitalized, one word up upon the other like a tottering tower about to give way to lethal gravity. The Word "stress", as you see it here, was askew, cracking under strain , as if , well, under stress.Suitably, I grabbed it and virtually yelled "STRESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS" to ride the rest of the a-ha! wave. I bought the book, scanned the cover, and cropped the single word you see above. It's become a seasonal mantra, a one-syllable password to a fellow human being likewise feeling pressed upon by the Holidays and news events that have no real bearing on their life.

Now, stress is the operative term in this tanking culture of theoretical money and jobs that low dividends to one's self esteem. On a head set, taking calls from all over the country, hundreds of people call hundreds of customer service representatives trying to order gift arrangements at the best price, both client and representative aware of the need to save money and show a seasonal kindness to wives, kids and sick friends, hourly negotiations between common courtesties, polite refusals of service, a plea for some more room to move around in as the final costs are calculated , a poetically phrased paragraph denying service uttered by a voice that shows empathy but gives no promise of compromise, and then a silence, deadly , chronic silence that makes one think they here locusts in the background, swarms of obnoxious things come to feed on the leaves and the books and the last dollars in your billfold.

Everyone, of course, says thank you and forget about it or, biting the leather strap, let's go for it, and either hangs up the phone or offers up a charge card. One wants to conserve, withdraw, pull the sheets and electric blankets over their head on the worst weather of the month, but one goes on, one does not want this to be the day they die , alone, without having said a personal thing to a loved one, touched another's arm, sat in living room with friends watching football or a DVD cursed with swear words and explosions. The sword is over our collective heads, we check the ads, file our applications, we talk in falsely warm voices in temporary spots of commerce, the days drag on when the buses are late and the nights are crowded with rain. In the background, under the babble of the feuding dualism of isolation vs venturing further from the nest, we here the eternal grind, the phrase that equals the electronic chirp of igniting circuits, the buzzing SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSttttttttttttttttttreeeeSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSssss

that remains the soundtrack of the century. An infernal machine that does not go off.

1 comment:

  1. Very trenchant. A squirt of hot valve oil from the bowels of the Mongo Machine.

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