Monday, July 15, 2013

Sometimes, it is just Dumb Luck!

As much as we might believe that it is up to ourselves to figure out what we want to do in life, and how we would like to be remembered, we can't forget that one piece in this: dumb luck.

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?

Dumb Luck
Corey Marks
The horse—its number smudged
by sweat and thumbs nuzzling

predictable exactas
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
Fall 2010


Ramesh said...

Of course luck is a huge factor in all our lives, but your getting into academics is not one of the, Where may be due to luck, but the choice of profession has got nothing to do with luck. Except the visa officer in Chennai OKing you :)

By the way, Mr Marks has no clue about horse racing and has penned that rubbish. It is a sport; not a game of chance. Sure there is some luck in the sport, as in any sport, but beyond that if a jockey has gone out too fast, he deserves to be kicked.

Even those who wager do so based on bloodlines, form, distance, etc - not by Inky Pinky Ponky !

Sriram Khé said...

Poetry is for emotions, as a colleague told me back when I was in California. ... and you start looking for rational, logical stuff in emotions? come on, spoilsport, that will be like analyzing a New Yorker cartoon--don't!!! ;)

Actually, during my days, getting the US visa was pretty much a sure thing if we had offers of fellowships or assistantships. As I recall, the visa officer didn't even ask me a single question--he looked at the papers, looked at me, and visa approval was done. So, yes, that visa worked out well to get me to the profession that I wanted to be in ...
my joke has been that by leaving India and moving to the US, I simultaneously raised the average IQ of both the countries ;)

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