The Bottom, at last softly reached

Well, what does that mean?

A couple of months ago, the State of New Jersey halved my Unemployment compensation on the way to phasing it out entirely. The old fart with bad legs is supposed to go out and get a factory job or something like that. The amount I no longer get may not sound like a lot to many people, but to me it’s the line thin line between being able to eat and pay bills compared to what I’m facing now: food pantries. My checking account’s seriously overdrawn because I have “overdraft protection,” so the landlord cashed the rent check that was okay until I had to pay for other stuff–and yes, I do keep track, but all the bookkeeping on earth can’t help you conserve what isn’t there.

So yes, there’s still a meal left in the house for tonight. But tomorrow I’m going to have to go to a food pantry around the corner in Long Branch, one in fact where I used to go to church, to get food. I don’t even know how the system works. But I guess I’m going to find out.

The weird part is how I feel. I don’t feel mortified, embarrassed, or even particularly upset. I have no choice but to accept what’s become of my sub-poverty-line existence. I’ve long since run the gauntlet of shame, and that for things I actually did instead of for the termites that live in my head. Oh, I’d so love to go out and order a steak dinner tonight, but who’s kidding whom?–I didn’t budget steak even when I had the money.

So what I feel can best be expressed as a giant shrug.

There’s a wonderful Old English poem called “Deor” in which the speaker presumably has fallen from high social position to abject ruin recounts the other fallen figures who had shit dumped on them like they were characters in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The last section is where the speaker, a former “scop” or court poet, gets personal about his own plight:

As for this singer, I will tell you
I once was the scop of Hoedeninga,
beloved of my Lord.  My name was Deor.
I spent many winters, gem of his retinue.
He valued my service, but now—Heorrenda—
master of poemcraft is gifted with landgift
my Lord and fair protector once gave to me.
That changed, this may too.

þæs ofereode,         þisses swa mæg!

Basically it means “That passed away so will this.”

There’s no self-pity in Deor and, I hope, none in me either.

This will pass away and the next thing will come up. And it too will pass.


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