Client Siddhartha Gautama, photo by James C. Henderson
Categories Poems in the Time of Pandemic, Poetry
Location New Brighton, Minnesota
Date April 22, 2020

James C. Henderson

During this time of pandemic
I am doing nothing.
Truth is, I like doing nothing.

I am doing nothing but write poems
take photographs, then match them up
post them to my website
and announce them on Facebook.

Truth is, everything I did at work
when I was working
was so I could go home
and do nothing
except write poems, take photos, et cetera.

The trouble with poetry, though, is that
as my mother once pointed out to me:
“There’s no money in it.”

Billy Collins wrote a book called
The Trouble with Poetry
Although, I don’t think this
is the trouble Billy has with poetry.

He has oodles
and I have noodles, egg noodles (hoarded)
with chicken and buttered peas
which I eat from a plain white bowl.

Maybe, when I run out of food and money
I could walk from town to town
as Homer did in ancient Greece
giving poetry readings—
the ultimate exercise in social distancing—
in exchange for food and lodging.

Homer gave epic poetry readings
on the rise and fall of Troy in the Iliad
and on the return to Greece in the Odyssey.
All from memory—full-bodied, impassioned
performances that lasted three days.

Or, maybe I could roam the land
as Buddhist monks do
wrapped in a maroon robe
living hand-to-mouth
accepting whatever food is offered me
relying on the kindness of strangers
which is pretty much what I do now.

Buddha himself lived this way.
However, one meal offered him
of rice, pork, and mushrooms was rancid
and he died from food poisoning.

When asked why he’d accepted the tainted food
the Buddha said he hadn’t wanted to offend his host
by turning down the meal and so
he lay down, died, and achieved enlightenment.

I could do one or the other of these things:
the Homer thing or the Buddha thing.
Truth is, I could never do either of these things.
Truth is, I’m not ready to die
not even for enlightenment.

Truth is, I could never remember
all those lines like Homer
or begin to put on a show.
I don’t even like to travel.

Truth is, I expect my egg noodles, chicken, and peas
to be FDA approved, just as I expect
my movies on Netflix to be certified fresh.

Truth is, I like doing nothing.
I mean, I really, really like doing nothing.