Take, for instance, my return to academia. There I was an unhappy transportation planner, when all I wanted to do was to be engaged in a world of ideas. Academia. Years went on. One became two and quickly it became my fifth year there and I got one of those dull and boring form-letter style certificate of appreciation. I worried that I would die young from not enjoying what I did.
One day, an intern, Robert, who was working on his undergraduate degree at the local university after a stint as an army officer, asked me whether I would be interested to guest-lecture at one of the classes he was in. Based on our conversations, he apparently decided to suggest that to his professor, but wanted to check with me first.
As a colleague used to say, I simply wait for opportunities to exercise my lower jaw and I bet I said "yes of course, yes!!!"
A week later I guest-lectured.
A month later, I was an adjunct professor teaching a course in the evening.
Two terms of adjunct teaching later, I had a tempting offer to work there as a non-tenure-track full-time lecturer and direct an interdisciplinary major.
Two years after that, I had the job offer from Oregon. It has been eleven years at Oregon now!
Dumb luck, don't you agree?
The horse—its number smudged
by sweat and thumbs nuzzling
stamped in black—stumbles
at the last, run too hard, run
beyond what her ankles could bear,
and the jockey, who’d driven
her ahead of the other horses
now churning past and flinging
back rings of dust, rides
her down, out of the grace
and rush of the race and into the hoof-
torn dirt, the shit and grit
and the shudder he’s lost control of...
Then another rush: people
flurry to the fallen animal, the jockey
is raised, stunned and still
he feels he’s moving—something roils
in him, around him, under him.
Words are inconsequential
as flies. Dumb luck.
The animal won’t rise.
Nearby, the winner paces,
cooling, saddled now with the reason
for the day, heavy chest
widening against his rider’s approval,
each breath ragged and expendable
and replaceable as the printed bets
that drift the grounds, skittering
between knuckles of grass
beneath the stands where people
stare, the ones who got it wrong,
used to seeing what doesn’t come,
to wagering chances bound to be
nothing, nothing, nothing
but lost. Though someone got it right
and smacks his ticket
against his palm, exactly sure
of what it bears. He looks away
as the crowd around him cranes
and gawks into the afterlife
of chance—a white truck,
a man with an open-mouthed kit.
A needle. A hurtling world
closes like a gate.
The Threepenny Review