Have you ever had a day when you have come perilously close to throwing your computer out the window? Have you ever had a day when the various rudenesses of modern society made you want to scream? Have you ever had a day when you felt invisible, a day when clerks, secretaries and other service people didnt make eye contact with you? Do you, like me, have a special knack for getting into the slowest lane? Do you, like me, have a knack for drawing needy people, people who seem to think that you and you alone have the answer to all of their questionsnow?
Here is a poem that examines the vagaries of living in the Age of Technology, a poem that tries to come to terms with sharing the planet with all sentient beings, including the incompetent and the needy. I had been reading the Dalai Lama and tried to put the experience into a more humorous context. Perhaps you will relate to this.
Smile Poem Found at the Bank
During a particularly difficult transaction
With a new young bank teller named Jason,
Who finds transferring funds
From savings to checking
A computer nightmare
For twenty minutes while the line gets longer
And agitated, and I have to resist
The thought that they are blaming me
So I must blame Jason,
I catch a sunbeam and chant to myself:
All sentient beings seek happiness
And want to avoid suffering.
Something I catch myself thinking
A lot these days. Walking out,
I see a man who might be a customer
Or a derelict or Timothy Leary.
I try not to make eye contact,
But its too late.
I like your smile, he says.
Thanks, I say,
For I am pathologically courteous
And unaware that I am smiling.
All these years I have wondered
Why strangers always and everywhere
Talk to me. Oh, I could tell you stories,
But thats for another poem.
I worried: I must look like a sucker,
A loser, or worsea person with no boundaries.
No standards, some wide vibe screaming,
Please bug me. Bother me. Talk to me.
Whatever it isyou can tell me.
But today, today I learn that all along
It was just the friendly smile
I didnt even know I owned.
This poem was first published in Powhatan Review, then in Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity. My gratitude to the editors.
Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called The Writers Garret for this newspaper.
from the Sept. 19 – 25, 2007, issue