Merton Lee

(1969 / Singapore)

On Reading Wordsworth's Daffodils (New Version 2014)


'Why are you not joining the Humanoid Race?
Why are you not joining the Money-Glazed World?
Are these penniless-bleak winds eating you alive?
Is this cryptic quiet making you mindless?
Why are you wasting time reading Wordsworth?
We don't need outdated things like poetry!
We only need business knowledge and science.'

A stout, six-feet-tall man, in mid-twenties,
in refined tie and coat, carrying a suitcase and a laptop,
suddenly shouted at me,
as he sat down beside me that morning.
He glared at me with round, red-streaked, insomniac eyes,
like two burning hazel nuts that sank inside pale sockets.
His broad forehead gleamed with beads of sweat.
His eye-brows aggressively thick were frowning,
like two well-practiced, inward-slanting, artistic dashes
of dark ink in a classical Chinese portrait.
They sat on a squarish, muscles-taut face,
almond-shaped, with biscuit-thin ears,
short, spiky, crow-black hair at the crown,
a stiff, elongated nose and pale-pink, flat lips.
They undulated like a mini earthquake when he shouted,
like he had been holding back a wall of emotions a long time,
suppressed within a well-sculpted,
testosterone-running-high skull.
It gave me the impression he might have been over-strained
by a tough body-building regime.

He continued to bellow:
'Why are you bony and shabbily dressed?
Why do you appear contented but unwanted,
sitting on this bench in a city park?
It's sinful to be contented in the modern world.
You must be driven by desires.
Don't waste your time reading Wordsworth.
Don't ever look contented.
Go, quickly learn how to become indispensable.
Commodify your thinking and mindset.
Better still, commodify your soul and consciousness.
Become a highly marketable product.
Polish, market, promote yourself
to your bosses and clients.
Ensure you are a highly value-add asset
that keeps adding profit.
No, that won't be enough.
You must keep sharpening your knives.
Character-assassinate your rivals
in unseen, soundless ways.
Win the favor of your bosses in artful ways.
Enroll in courses on winning strategies and tactics.
If not, we don't need you.
We don't need an escapist reader of poems.
Now get out of my sight! '

Slowly I replied, 'Please bear with me
if my presence irritated you.
I am too common, too small, too human,
with few wishes and simple joy.
Hope to discover the Timeless in Wordsworth's lines,
to develop faith, patience and compassion.
I can only live one day at a time in the strength of God.
I can only contribute in small, poetic ways.
My idol is Mother Teresa.
I'll walk away now, less promptly,
due to encroaching-oldness in my knees and legs.
Please bear with me. Please do not over-strain yourself.
God loves you. We are all His children.
We are never unwanted.
We are always employed by Him to serve His purposes.
In that Higher sense, we are always useful to Him.
We will return Home someday.'

I walked away slowly.
I sensed that his venting lightened his heart.
I empathized with his sadness.
I encountered a fair share of difficult bosses when young.
Perhaps I become a quaint, old-fashioned vessel,
lessening his anger and passing moods.
Perhaps I become an inward eye
that sees cheerful daffodils,
born from reading Wordsworth.
A Whisper came:
'Today, you have passed.'

Submitted: Friday, January 24, 2014
Edited: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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