Glynn Young’s “Poetry at Work” and Sandwiches

It was a rotten week, all because of a scheduled phone call. When a phone call is scheduled, you know it’s gonna be bad. I tried to take myself out to lunch at my favorite sandwich shop to fortify myself, but I was greeted by a letter on the door, telling me it was closed and why.

I broke down sobbing. I was inconsolable the rest of the day, all because I could not get their veggie sandwich with turkey. (Yes, I contradict myself. I contain multitudes.)

In Poetry at WorkGlynn Young has a chapter called “The Poetry of the Crisis.” He writes:

It’s difficult to see when you’re in the thick of a crisis, but you can look for the poetry that’s there, because it is there. You can see it in the themes, the metaphors, the rhythm and flow, what words are used and how they are used. And finding the poetry in the crisis will suggest the path forward.

So, we were both having a crisis—the family who owned the sandwich shop and I. Now, I should’ve felt compassion for the owners, the Bedfords. They’re closing their shop  because their daughter, who was born with a rare disease, isn’t doing well. But that day, all I could see was that I wasn’t getting my sandwich—the one I needed to fortify myself for the phone call.

Where’s the poetry in that?

I sent an email to a friend and asked her to pray about the phone call. I also told her about the sandwich shop closing. I didn’t tell her why.

She sent another email the next morning to ask how the phone call went. I told her it didn’t go well.

“Hm….man. Is the sandwich place open today?” she asked.

“It’s closed closed. That’s why I was sobbing,” I wrote. I didn’t tell her why. I didn’t want her to know how petty I was.

“Ack!!” she wrote, followed shortly afterward by another email that said, “You’ve got enough grief and loss in your life without having the lunch treat, a little refuge, taken from you. Quick, let’s think of some purchase-able pleasure in town…..Was this the one that closed, Java Ranch? How about the Nest? Alamo Springs Cafe? Clear River Pecan Bakery? Woerner? Sweet Marley’s?”

I wrote back, “Sweet Marley’s is what closed. I like Woerner’s. (It’s also a feed store.) Alamo Springs is great when it’s warm—always full of motorcyclists, the kind of place where you just grab your beer from the fridge. Clear River is best for dessert. The Nest is super fancy. Never been. Maybe I’ll take my computer to Woerner’s. I have lots of editing. thank you.”

So, I slipped my laptop into my red case and took off for Woerner’s. I ordered their tuna sandwich that comes with lots of veggies and a good side salad.

I ate. I edited. I checked my email. My friend forwarded that day’s selection from Every Day Poems. It was called “The Woman at the Stoplight” by Claire Bateman. “I felt you in this poem,” she wrote.

I see in her face

that oh, she needs it too—

Yes, my friend knew exactly what I needed.

so with the full force

of my small ferocity,

She made sure that I got a sandwich. And after the sandwich, I went home and took a long nap. I woke up actually feeling refreshed, which felt wrong because the crisis surrounding the phone call was still a crisis. But my body was acting like a body, responding to having had a good sandwich and a good nap. And a good poem.

for a breath

of self-replenishment,

self-repair

 

or only just

a breath,

(stanza break)

The poem and the sandwich gave me a stanza break from my crisis. Sure, I would’ve preferred a Sweet Marley’s sandwich and to have avoided that stupid phone call in the first place. But Marley’s parents would prefer that their daughter not have RCDP, rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata, and that they not need to close their restaurant to care for her.

This is what I know to be true—I live in a body that needs sandwiches, especially during a crisis when I can’t see the way forward. I also need poetry, it’s themes and metaphors and rhythm and flow, what words are used and how, like Glynn says.

The sandwich was over and done with in half an hour. The poem I printed to save in my scrapbook. If I really, really, really decide I can’t live without a Sweet Marley’s sandwich, I can drive out to a nearby state park, where they are operating a food truck. Sure, 15 miles seems like it’s out of the way, but as the poem says, that’s “far from too much / to ask.” 

What would it cost

Less than 10 bucks.

Despite this double crisis (the daughter’s illness and the storefront closing), Marley’s family is looking to the future. Here’s what the the end of the letter posted on their restaurant door reads:

We are looking forward to the future and all that it has in store. God’s plan, while not always understood, is perfect. Perhaps that future will hold a new version of Sweet Marley’s.

No poet could have said it better.

Poetry at Work

Comments

  1. Megan – I love this post. I love the line about your body acting like a body. It’s amazingly true that though stress and sleeplessness and anxiety can make us ache; rest and food and a friend who prays can heal us up. Our bodies appreciate such efforts, in fact.

    I’m sorry about the phone call and the sandwich shop. But I’m happy about the HOPE.

  2. Megan- a great story. Thanks for the mention of my book. Perhaps there should have been a chapter on “The Poetry of the Familiar Disappearing.”

  3. [Insert long pause as Ann wipes tears]

    “I live in a body that needs sandwiches…I also need poetry.” I love how many things came together in this reflective, poetic piece. And how you received a small, good thing that day.

    I could kiss Woerner’s for standing in the gap.

  4. Oh Megan, I was horrified by just reading the first paragraph. I know how your scheduled phone calls go, and I knew the moment you said “sandwich shop” that it must be Sweet Marley’s. I would like a recount for you and the Bedfords. Life is just too hard sometimes and I surely can’t see the poetry in it (not sure I know what to look for). If you need me to come drive you out to the state park for a “fix”, you let me know. I will come running.

  5. Oh, Meg. This is stunning. Thank you so very much for writing this out for us to read and ponder, to smile a little and feel a tear well up. THAT is poetry at work, my friend. Oh, yes, indeed.

  6. Oh my! Oh my!

    I stopped here: I contain multitudes.

    Then I stopped at the feed store. I’m glad you got fortified at the feed store.

    I love that your laptop case is red.

    I love that Glynn helped you find poetry in this crisis.

    I love you.

  7. I, too, am glad your laptop case is red. And that God loves you enough to understand both your need for a sandwich and for poetry.

  8. This.is.soul-full and tender. Every line speaks to both the
    Simplicity and the complications of this earthly life. Thank you for a wtite from the deepest of places. Im privileged to benon the receiving receiving end of your poetry.

  9. I am sad to know that their daughter is doing worse. But I’m thankful to know that they are grabbing onto hope.

    You, dear friend, are doing that, too…even when you feel it’s intrusive (which it never is), by learning to call, text, email, post and reach out when you need to.

    You have so many folks who are rooting for you. In the good times and bad. Why? Because you’re a lovely person, and a warrior.

    I love you a ton. And next time I’m in Fburg, let’s drive to the park and get those sandwiches!

  10. I always feel a bit “left out” of these discussions on High Calling because I don’t have a “real” job – but this speaks volumes to me Megan. Don’t we all have something, some seemingly insignificant something, that we know will make the huge problems we face just a bit more bearable.
    You did a remarkable job with this.

  11. lovely reflections. I just came across “The Woman at the Stoplight” yesterday, a remarkable poem. Thanks for taking time to express the intersection of your life and this poem. As refreshing as a good sandwich!