The work: A poem

Illustration of person overlooking some hills with papers
Arianna Ninh/File

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Some days, the work

is hairpin turns on tight deadlines,

restless sleep and near misses,

pushing the speed limit

with your own aching hands

strangling the wheel.

 

Some days, the work

is an overcast sky, 

unnatural clouds

spread over stagnant air,

a horizon hanging 

too close to the ground.

 

Often, the work presses, settles

between your shoulder blades,

doubling you over,

curling you into a question:

 

What are you chasing

that you run yourself down

to the stark, white bone?

 

What is 

chasing

you?

 

Some days the work looks like you,

an inverse memory,  

constructed in retrospect.

 

Other days the work looks like an excuse,

a kind of drowning that gets easier

the deeper you go.

 

It is commonplace for you to break —

to scatter —

over the work.

 

It is a break in the most

literal sense. You collect your pieces,

you come back,

and the work is still there.

 

((A ghost / an old friend,

a haunting / a comfort))

 

You don’t know if you are finding

yourself in the work

or hiding in it 

instead.

 

Most days

you don’t know

the difference.

 

Contact Sean Tseng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @STWeekender24.

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