So begins Elizabeth Bishop's poem "One Art". And , with irony, she continues," so many things seem filled with the intent/to be lost that their loss is no disaster".
I thought of this poem this evening when I walked out on my apartment porch, and for the third time in as many months, watched the repo men load up another one of my neighbors' cars and drive away. Twice they came in daylight. Once at 5 am. I saw them as I drove out to a shift at the prison clinic, and there in the dark they had a Metro cop parked beside. In case there was trouble.
The suburb I live in is not wealthy, but solidly middle class. It is thirteen miles south of Nashville, and most of its population lives in Apartment villages, senior housing, and condominiums. These are people who once paid their bills, could handle a car note and rent and gas money and groceries.
No more. Now they have to choose. And under their feet ,the ground is cracking.
Nashville is a wealthy city. An immigrant portal. At night the clerk at the Mini-Mart is a hopeful immigrant from Togo. The cabbie who drives you to work because your battery is dead is from Lebanon. Both came here for opportunity.
If it still exists.
Two days ago The Tennessean, our city's daily, reported that the Bank of America is foreclosing on the Nashville Symphony's concert hall downtown. The Symphony is bankrupt.
The Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Art Museum is perpetually in financial trouble, no matter how many stunt light shows and model train exhibits they offer to try to get real people to come. The rich play there. They have their Swan Balls and "Highballs and Hydrangeas" cocktail parties. But their pocketbooks are slammed shut.
They are keeping theirs.
A friend who works still at the Catholic hospital where I worked for twenty seven years reports there has been another purge of employees deemed superfluous. Nurses who have worked there for over thirty years and have shifted into desk jobs are being fired.
And the hospital no longer offers a pension plan. It is a non-profit money pit where the uninsured are being dumped while the profitable for profits such as Hospital Corporation of America cherry pick people who can pay.
Meanwhile I see, some mornings, a young man two doors over get on his bike with its trailing wheeled basket. Is he going to work? I saw him -he was one of the three- with his hands on his head in dismay as the truck came for his car last month. I see him walking his German Shepherd. How far is he from falling off the edge?
Gone is the optimism of my youth in the fifties and sixties. We had prosperity. A space program we could pay for. A charismatic youthful president with an elegant wife. Workers had pension plans. Wages went up. Parents could afford college, and when their children graduated they were not destined to menial jobs at Burger King.
I have quoted Nathaniel Hawthorne before, and shall do so again now-
"In this great Republic of ours someone is always at the drowning point".
Yes they are. And not just someone, but America's Middle Class.