Workin’ For It — a Poem in Response

02 Jun

Yes, twice in a day, for those receiving this in their inboxes. Must be the drawing near of summer vacation, although do I get a vacation? If I don’t have a ‘job,’ do I get to vacate?

Bartender Stuart McPherson serves up a rather controversial topic, one entirely suitable for discussing while leaning on a bar with a good ale close by, preferably in my hands.

If you haven’t been by the local yet, stop in. Stuart gives us many appetisers to enjoy with our drink[s]. My poem, while short and quick, concerns a subject that niggles, often.

On Meeting the People at My Husband’s Workplace

What do you do?
I hear you are retired from teaching.
Do you work?

Do I work?
I stay home all day,
I clean the house (more or less),
I prepare supper —Β  time + effort = enjoyment + a meal —
I write. Mostly, I write. That’s it:

I write.

Oh. What do you write?


Oh. So you don’t work?

Work: mental or physical effort
done in order to achieve a purpose or result

This is an interactive poem. Audience: do we work?


Thank you Stuart. I shall mingle for a while. Can I have more crisps?


Posted by on 02/06/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , ,

69 responses to “Workin’ For It — a Poem in Response

  1. claudia

    02/06/2012 at 4:22 pm

    haha…i think cooking tasty meals and writing poetry sounds like the perfect work to me.. you feed people…with both…smiles..and just ignore the people… maybe have them try cooking a good meal and write a poem and they will change their mind..smiles

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 4:27 pm

      How funny. I am reading your poem at the moment, Claudia!

      Thanks for the visit. I like your suggestion πŸ™‚

  2. Semaphore / Samuel Peralta

    02/06/2012 at 4:35 pm

    That’s a trick question! It is work, but is it work if you enjoy it?

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 4:37 pm

      Nice catch, Samuel. The problem looks like it comes, not with the definition of work, but with its connotations.

  3. Mary

    02/06/2012 at 4:45 pm

    This made me smile, Margo. I would say our minds work, thus WE work when we write. Occasionally I mention to people that I try to write a poem a day (or every other day at least), and they look at me in disbelief. Only occasionally do people invite me to show them some. I think they look at what I do as playing on the computer. Actually I consider what we do to be fruitful play — the best kind of work possible.

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 5:34 pm

      Mary, I agree, absolutely!

  4. Daydreamertoo

    02/06/2012 at 5:16 pm

    Oh, so you don’t work then, eh. LOL
    Nice one Margo!

  5. Heaven (@asweetlust)

    02/06/2012 at 5:18 pm

    Well I work hard for my poems and writing as it take a changing of mindset and words ~ But its a pleasure to write, so its not really work for me. More like a hobby or fun ~

    Nice to meet you Margo ~

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 5:33 pm

      Nice to meet you, Heaven. Did I see you in a Poetic Bloomings interview?

      The joke around my place is how long it takes me to write a poem. While it is, in many ways, harder than teaching, the joy I get from the writing more than makes it worth it. I quit teaching so I could focus on my writing full-time.

      Nice to meet you as well.

  6. poemsofhateandhope

    02/06/2012 at 6:15 pm

    You nailed it. You know – I completely hate it when people ask what I do….if tell them about my ‘job’ as in main income provider- they think its all interesting and important. It’s not- and I’m bored shitless. If I tell people I write – they think immsome kind of solstice worshipping vegan wearing whicker shoes to bad folk festivals. What I LOVE about this poem is that complete misrepresentation of ‘work’- what do you do- I write- oh so it don’t work? Tbh- I’ve written poems that have taken more effort and time than ANY day in office. Ok- I’m starting to ramble now aren’t I- sorry- your poem was a great response to the prompt- and so truthful….

    • margo roby

      06/06/2012 at 5:55 pm

      My apologies for the late response. I just found you lurking in spam. I love your comment. I can feel the frustration we all feel! When I taught creative writing, on Parents’ Night, I set the parents an exercise to try. Heh heh heh. They were abashed.

  7. Laurie Kolp

    02/06/2012 at 6:41 pm

    LOVE this, Margo. I’ve heard the same thing many times, most recently a neighbor asked me when I was going back to work (I’m a former teacher, too). YES, we work so hard.

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you, Laurie! I knew I was preaching to the choir with this one!

  8. brian miller

    02/06/2012 at 7:16 pm

    haha sometimes it is work….gimme a form and its definitely work lol…writing surely isnt work is it? well you give it a try and tell me what you think…smiles….

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 9:44 pm

      I love wrestling through a form, Brian. I love any word wrestling. Worth every iota of sweat!

  9. Hannah Gosselin

    02/06/2012 at 8:10 pm

    Heck yeah!! We work! We work to make time to work some more and then hopefully we get the chance to playwork=write!

    I love the equation that you play up in your poem=very effective+smiling Hannah!!

    Great offering for the pub! πŸ™‚

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 9:43 pm

      Why, thank you, Hannah! I loved being able to join in.

  10. J Cosmo Newbery

    02/06/2012 at 9:35 pm

    Yes, it is work. I only do rhyming poems, so often frustrating work. But the pleasure of return to admire your work makes it all the more worthwhile. Which is more than I can say for weeding.

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 9:42 pm

      Rhyming is very hard work. To be able to rhyme and have the poem not sound like it is a talent I have not worked on yet. I love your sentiment re reading our work versus weeding!

  11. wood

    02/06/2012 at 9:43 pm

    that’s a good question. i guess it depends on your point of view. if we love what we do (let’s say a job) and really have a passion for it, and it doesn’t feel like work, is it still work?

    when i first started writing, it was hard work, but then i worked really hard it, the discipline and all that. but now it just feels like breathing, now i just do it.

    in your bio it says that you are a retired teacher? that’s something to be proud of, i have the greatest respect for teachers, my hat is off to you. from now on, when people ask you what you do, just tell them “i’m solving all the worlds problems with art”, let them chew on that for awhile.

    don’t worry, enjoy your poetry, and good luck with your work =)

    • margo roby

      02/06/2012 at 9:50 pm

      wood, I agree with every point you make. My passion for teaching was part of the joy, until it kept me from my writing. I didn’t have the energy to give to both what was needed. I taught until I had to write and that’s when I retired.

      I love how you put it :’now it just feels like breathing’. Exactly.

      I’m old enough that I no longer worry. I enjoy both my poetry and the work πŸ™‚ Thank you, both for stopping by and your perceptive comments.

  12. pandamoniumcat

    02/06/2012 at 11:00 pm

    Oh how I used to hate it when someone asked What do you do? or Have you got a job yet? I wanted to scream I am a mother…I am a multi-tasker… I write… I paint… cook, clean, budget, volunteer at school, psychologist, health nurse and the list goes on… anyway loved your poem and now despite the memory of how it made me feel… I don’t worry about it as much! πŸ™‚

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 9:16 am

      pandamoniumcat, such a wonderful name — growing older has its pluses, such as not caring what ‘they’ think any more — I can’t think of anything that fits the denotation of work better than mother, never mind all the other things! It was fun to write the poem πŸ™‚

  13. wordsandthoughtspjs

    02/06/2012 at 11:07 pm

    Is it work? Well, Margo, sometimes for me it does seem like it, other times not. It simply depends on the mood I am in and how things are going on around me. I enjoyed this. πŸ™‚


    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 9:18 am

      Pamela, what you say is important. If we take the second part of the definition… hang on, while I scroll up… ‘done in order to achieve a purpose or result’ and we feel we haven’t achieved that, then, it’s work, like your wretched students a few days ago.


  14. jlynn sheridan

    02/06/2012 at 11:57 pm

    The “do” question always flusters me and I am careful when or if I choose to ask someone what they “do.” Telling someone I am a poet, is kind of like saying I am cotton candy. (“Oh, that’s so sweet honey, but what do you really do?”) To settle it, I just say, I’m a mom.

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 9:38 am

      jlynn, You make a good point. That is the verb used, ‘do’. I didn’t write until my kids were almost grown and gone,; at that point, I was a teacher, so no problem. But, I retired from that to write poetry. I try for “I write” as an answer. Sometimes, maybe, they won’t go further. Hah!

      I will watch myself now when meeting someone new.

  15. henryclemmons

    03/06/2012 at 12:27 am

    Yes, we, and all artists work. Great sabor to slice your point.

    • margo roby

      06/06/2012 at 5:52 pm

      Thank you, Henry. I like the way you put it.

  16. markwindham

    03/06/2012 at 12:37 am

    well now, look at you out there mingling in the pub πŸ˜‰

    We live in a time where work is defined as ‘what do you do for money?’ A stay at home mom may get a pass for a time, for others no income = no working.

    Sad really. I would LOVE to cook meals and write for a living.

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 9:21 am

      I’ll have to come by more often, Mark. I can’t believe how many of you are hanging around here. Of course, that means coming up with something quickly… we’ll see. It worked this time. maybe, if I don’t leave.

      Yes, it is sad.

  17. vivinfrance

    03/06/2012 at 2:49 am

    Do we work ? YES WE DO Do we love it? YES WE DO

    The same denigrating question is also asked of stay-at-home Mums, arousing the same irritation.

    Good take on the prompt, Margo.

    PS I want to read your wordle poem but can’t.

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 9:23 am

      Yay, ViV. Love the cheerleading!

      I remember when I was a stay-at-home mother. I never understood how anyone could define that as not work. Nowhere in the definition of the word does it say the return must be monetary. Work + exhaustion = children’s love. Works for me.

  18. charlesmashburn

    03/06/2012 at 7:48 am

    You are preaching to the choir, Margo! I’m a retired guy–wife still holds down a good job she loves–and when I tell people I’m working at my second career–writing–I am often answered with the sweet southern drawl of, “Oh… well, bless your heart.”
    Love your little poem!

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 9:29 am

      Charles, yes! Even worse than: “Oh,” is the “well bless your heart”. Can you feel them mentally patting you on the head? I’m in the south now, so that response may come up. I’ll laugh if it does.

      • charlesmashburn

        03/06/2012 at 10:11 am

        You will laugh! And it will probably come up! You have to let me know when it does! πŸ™‚

  19. Marianne

    03/06/2012 at 9:15 am

    Love this piece, Margo! Your world sounds like mine. I clean (sometimes), I cook (most of the time) and I write all of the time. I am happiest and most content sitting at my computer, putting words together like a great puzzle. But most people tend not to believe me when I tell them it’s what I do.They most definitely don’t understand.

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 9:27 am

      Marianne, it is lovely, isn’t it, to have a world of people, here, who do understand! Unless we are making good money at it, creative people are misunderstood rather as gypsies are. I like the image you give of yourself. I am sitting in my nest, which is the entire corner of the front room where a dining room might have gone. I sit facing out so I can survey my domain — hmm, the counter is dusty — and play on my computer, working with the words. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  20. Daydreamertoo

    03/06/2012 at 11:03 am

    I can’t get to your wordle post Margo. It says it’s password protected and I can’t see it unless I enter my password????

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 11:24 am

      I just discovered that little problem! The password is: enter

      • tmhHoover

        04/06/2012 at 4:56 pm

        For some reason that made me laugh….Enter. Now to finish the comments everyone has had on work…

        • margo roby

          04/06/2012 at 5:18 pm

          Teri, What I really wanted to use is the password to enter the dwarf mines, from Lord of the Rings: Speak friend and enter.

          I decided that was a little wordy.

          • tmhHoover

            04/06/2012 at 6:08 pm

            And I was going to type that all out – but then I thought “what if she has not read/watched Lord of the Rings?” (like who has not at least seen LOR) I LOVE that whole scene. Thanks for the comment on my piece… I just added that it may have been influenced by Purple Pen In Portland’s ( I wish I knew her name) and a link to her piece… I try to never read others work before I write. ah well… thanks again xo

            • margo roby

              05/06/2012 at 10:06 am

              I love the way our minds work, Teri! I hope you are planning to join de , myself and a couple others on the wide porch, with rocking chairs, music, wifi and lovely weather, some day when we have slowed down [husbands are allowed to come along, but they will have to find things to do!]

              PPP is Sarah. I have begun a list which I keep in my gmail as contacts, so ask anytime!


  21. julespaige

    03/06/2012 at 11:40 am

    Glad I stopped by…now I can read your wordle…
    As for Work…yes writing is work…might just be a tad bit safer environment than say a worker construing a sky scraper. But when you sit down with pen or key board and write…and time ticks away and then all of a sudden an hour or two has gone by because you’ve been trying to set the stage, paint a scene, or convey some point with grace and ease… yes, you have worked!

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 11:47 am

      Exactly, Jules!

  22. Susan

    03/06/2012 at 1:12 pm

    “Oh. What do you write? / Poetry. / Oh. So you don’t work?”

    How true your poem is!
    I, too, would laugh at the leap to judgement of people who have never tried it–except that I wonder how long I can/should give to it and call it work if I remain unpublished.
    My extremely talented and productive family always answer with, “And what have you published?” When I say nothing, they start giving me all kinds of advice on “how to do my work” and in front of it I cringe and shrink. I would love to read to them. I would love them to comment on my poems–but not to suggest rewrites.
    Thanks for letting me dump this here.
    The yearly family reunion week is coming up. I retired this March. Gives me less of an excuse not to have “succeeded” at this line of work. I will bring my notebook, but spend most of my time in the pool.

    • margo roby

      06/06/2012 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Susan. My apologies for taking so long to respond. I just found you in spam.

      You raise a good point re the published/unpublished bit. I was trying to remember how long it was before I was first published. It does make a difference, once accepted, just once. However, as long as you are exerting mental and/or physical effort and you count the accomplishment of writing something the return, you can call yourself a writer and what you do as work, for as long as you want. You don’t need an excuse. This is who you are and what you do.

      Your family is your hairshirt. Smile and nod and grab a drink. Dump anytime.


  23. whimsygizmo

    03/06/2012 at 2:39 pm

    Love this. And yes, sometimes we do. And sometimes we play. And sometimes it’s both all rolled up into a blind falling into a white snowstorm. The pay’s no good, but man, it’s fun.

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 2:43 pm

      de, you say it all!

  24. whimsygizmo

    03/06/2012 at 2:43 pm

    PS: Where can I find the password for your Whirl?

    • margo roby

      03/06/2012 at 2:45 pm

      de, On the post, of course! Yes, I know. It took a few enquiries before my brain said: “Oh”. The password is: enter

  25. zongrik

    03/06/2012 at 6:20 pm

    lol – so you don’t work???

    to me, this whole writing poetry and reading blogs and making comments is sooooo much work, i call it work all the time…

    Sonnet 24

    • margo roby

      04/06/2012 at 7:30 am

      Laughing back, zongrik!

      I’m off to read your sonnet.

  26. Julie Laing

    04/06/2012 at 12:36 am

    Yes! As a writer, I say we work. As the daughter of a woman who gave up her career to raise two kids, I say you work. As a former cubicle dweller who is now self-employed and works from home, I say don’t let people go to an office Monday to Friday define work for you. Nicely penned.

  27. The Happy Amateur

    04/06/2012 at 7:14 am

    The same goes for prose, and for writers who write full time, including the best ones. Anne Tyler – my favorite writer – was waiting to pick up her kid from school, and one of the mothers said something like that to her, “So, have you found a job yet, or you still just write?” πŸ™‚

    • margo roby

      04/06/2012 at 7:32 am

      Sasha, I’m not surprised to hear that, except for best-selling authors. That surprises me. What do you suppose people think we do to get what we get?

      • The Happy Amateur

        04/06/2012 at 7:55 am

        I suppose there are quite a few people who don’t consider writing to be work. So, if you get something for it, in their opinion, you get that for doing practically nothing. I guess, they disapprove.

        • margo roby

          04/06/2012 at 7:59 am

          One thing, Sasha, is that when people don’t understand something, there is a tendency to put it down. There we go, they’re all jealous.

          • The Happy Amateur

            04/06/2012 at 8:48 am

            I agree, I think it really boils down to that: they’re all jealous!

  28. Veronica Roth

    04/06/2012 at 1:30 pm

    Ha ha, I laugh at your non-working status and raise you sitting around in my jammys eating bon-bons in front of daytime TV. At least that’s what my usual response to “do you work then?” has been. πŸ™‚

    • margo roby

      04/06/2012 at 2:06 pm

      Ooh ooh, bon bons! I figure all the multi-tasking involved in watching daytime TV, responding to comments, doing something domestic, writing, squeezing in bob bon time, constitutes one heck of a work load.

      I’ll have to tell my husband your response. When I was a stay at home mom and people asked whether I worked, he said, Tell them you lie around eating bon bons.

      If you have time will you look at my password protected poem, sometime. I’m working on my line breaks. Password: enter

      Now I have to go find some chocolate.

      • Veronica Roth

        04/06/2012 at 3:42 pm

        Had a look Margo, loved the poem, completely mangled it and sent it back…hope you still talk to me after πŸ™‚

        • margo roby

          04/06/2012 at 3:45 pm

          I am laughing at you. Yep, at. I am loving what the different line breaks do for the poem.

  29. tmhHoover

    04/06/2012 at 5:22 pm

    So ok I have a sensitive spot… I have never made enough money to have ever survived on my own. Can we say inferiority complex. So I do not count my writing as work- even though it is one the hardest things I do. But is the fact that it is hard make it work? Does work have to be miserable. I always told my kids it didn’t …. they now tell me I was wrong. I am glad I love photography and it pays well. But even that I could do with a bit more focus. (I am so punny) Now I am really off to write to last weeks prompt. I LOVE image prompts. xo teri

    • margo roby

      04/06/2012 at 5:35 pm

      Nope. If you look at the definition: mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result, it says nothing about work being hard in a negative sense [effort means something different], or getting paid. Ideally, when we work, we should have a passion for it. We are the lucky ones. Your kids are wrong, she said cheerfully. You are right [ you usually are, you know]. Work does not HAVE to be miserable, but not that many people are lucky enough to do what they love and make money so they can keep doing it. If my beloved hadn’t said, Of course, stop teaching and I’ll keep teaching, I still wouldn’t be writing and I would be miserable.

      I’m a little haphazard in there. Let me know if it needs translation! xom


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