poem:"Bad" by william mathews
Not twenty minutes into looking for a poem to encapsulate this week, I came across the poem “Bad” by William Matthews that I read above. It was first published in 1984. It is certainly not about this moment we are in, but it feels like it is. A “home-made virus”, a battle with ever-present colonialism, a brazen smugness mixed with terror: this is where we are. And, I am ashamed to admit, I feel the juvenile “fog” that this poem centers filling me already. With hopelessness, with fear, with justification…what can I do against a government so intent on destroying its own citizens? I have begun to “count…blessings backwards.”
In my last week of unemployment, before I begin a new job and a new chapter, I am wondering if I will sink back into the comfortable, silent life I led before. Strangely, I was more comfortable in my life as an actor, confident that my struggle was for the higher cause of ‘art.” Now, I must manufacture my own joy and purpose, and I find this prospect utterly terrifying. What I have uncovered is that I have used my career in theatre as a convenient method of erasing my privileged position in society; who finds the poor underpaid acting intern privileged? Both the myth of inclusive space and the endless, unforgiving hours of a theatre internship prevented me from engaging with the uncomfortable truth that I have a responsibility to my future ancestors to dismantle the systems in which I am complicit. Now, I move to a job where there are no such illusions, and I am afraid.
All that said, I think William Matthews makes clear that mine is not a piteous position, as I once again center myself in the narrative. All of these words I have written are technically correct and read like a well-structured confession, but they are not actionable. So, then, here is my action: I invite you, the audience, the reader, whenever you are reading this, to join me in my discomfort with the present. I commit to remembering. I feel confident that, although this is not a brave or a precise action, it is a necessary one. Let us take the necessary action; let us perform the essential.