After failing as an artist 

(a synonym for unemployed), 

I worked in a mine in rural 

America. Not much in those 

badlands, except weeds the

colour of my skin, jingoists  

who loved guns, and  

Confederate flags. There  

were some good people  

like the ones who left me  

alone as I hewed stone — 

The greys and golden browns 

carrying me away from  

syllables and sentences,  

images and abstractions.  

Some hated me,  

calling me an  

Islamist, or asking me to 

go back to my camels,  

being the sand-nigger, I was.  

But I hewed and hewed,  

the greys and browns  

becoming an extension,  

a massive limb that swallowed 

up my dreams and delusions,  

peeling off the tainted 

wallpaper with its stars,  

minotaurs, beatific visions  

and self-aggrandising etchings. 

I didn’t frequent the one bar in  

town, or own an internet connection, 

I hewed and hewed — 

The greys enveloping me like  

sweet silence, the browns burning  

away lyrical cadences,  

and returning home,  

sat on a moth-eaten couch,  

pushing away some madness  

beseeching me to become a  

brown Philip Levine, praying to  

the greys and golden browns to  

carry me into a dreamless sleep — 

monochrome and insentient.  

For earthweal

Photo by Nick Nice on Unsplash

35 responses to “Artist”

  1. We can all use a break from the muse sometimes, especially when things go really crazy, though not all choose hard labour (and asceticism?) like the narrator did here, even if it was metaphorical. Great poem!


    1. Definitely. I often need a break when the mind starts acting wonky. Yes there is an element of asceticism in the poem. I guess he just wants a break, to be rid of thoughts of failure, etc. Thank you so much Tanmay!


  2. Working in a mine must be one of the harder ways to survive, especially when one is verbally abused while doing so. Your poem takes the reader into the experience. So well expressed. I apologize on behalf of those humans who arent aware enough to apologize themselves. Sigh.


    1. Thank you so much Sherry! I’m so glad that you felt the poem carried you into the experience.


  3. You use colours very effectively to convey the desolation of being an outsider in a back breaking job.
    Impressive write.


    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Punam!


  4. A very raw poem that rings of truth. I’m sorry for your terrible experience!


    1. This poem is fiction. But I’m sure that it’s a terrible reality for quite a few people. Thank you Dawn!


  5. a massive limb that swallowed
    up my dreams and delusions.. fine writing. Enjoyed this poem.


    1. Thank you very much! I’m glad you liked it.


  6. So much great art has been produced in alienation and isolation–you put us inside the skin of your narrator,make us feels the blows he himself takes, as well as the ones whose strikes move colors into form, and shape him as well as his work. My pleasure to read this skillful and intelligent piece this morning.


    1. Thank you so much for such a wonderful comment! You made my day 😊 And I agree, alienation fuels a lot of great art. Books like Kafka’s The Metamorphosis come to mind, which though an allegory, conveys the sense of being ostracised so well.


  7. i’m so sorry this happened to you, perhaps even continues to happen. lately i haven’t been very proud of my country, for exactly this reason. but you’re right, all of this is what makes an artist. endure untill we thrive, that’s all we can do.


    1. This poem is fiction, but I’m sure this happens to many artists in the US, and other places. The racism, fascism (which is now universal), the harrowing conditions, etc destroy creative minds, but you’re right, we must endure. No matter what happens.


      1. it does happen a lot, i see it, experience it more and more everyday, not really directed at me, but i feel surrounded by all the time these days


  8. The arts, creating, observing, enjoying, are what enhance the human experience of life. Why is it that most artists have to struggle to get by. The lack of appreciation by the masses show what an unhealthy spiritual place we find ourselves in. I also like the use of color in here to reflect mood. Nicely done, Nitin.


    1. We live in a world where everyone is concerned with power, position, prestige, status or money. It really is an unhealthy spiritual place. And with the growth of technology, many artists find themselves heading towards obscurity. It’s a tragic reality. Thank you so much for your comment!


  9. Art is often created from life’s experiences and unfortunately the rude behavior of others. I could feel the pain of the narrator. I like how you have woven in the expression of color.


    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I agree. Art is sometimes unfortunately woven from the rude behaviour of others.


  10. One can never be a failed artist. An artist is special.An artist has an enriched life …something that will never be experience by brutes


    1. Thank you for your perspective.


  11. A powerful poem, Nitin. Like all good fiction, it creates its own reality…JIM


    1. Thank you very much Jim!


  12. Of course for me Appalachia comes to mind. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve traveled I-80…and there’s a little town called Tamaqua. Your work brings it to mind. The most painful part of the piece is to feel the cut of bigotry.


    1. Thank you very much Kelly. Small towns in the US have always fascinated me. I read a lot of literature set in such towns too. I’m glad you felt the cut of the bigotry. At first I wondered if it would make the post too visceral, but I’m glad I added that element.


    2. Kelly I commented twice on your last post, but I think both comments are in the spam folder. If you check there, you’ll find them. WP is giving me a headache!


      1. Hey…I can’t comment on you, either. I was able to approve your comment on my last post. Thanks! 🙂


      2. You’re welcome! Are you not able to comment on any new post? What does it say? I thought WP resolved this issue. Bah! I’m so tired!


      3. I think my comment section is working now. They’ve done some tests and stuff!


  13. This is strong and very moving . 💕


    1. Thank you so much! 😊


  14. I really felt his poem, I loved all its nuances. And the first two lines made me chuckle!


    1. I’m glad you saw the humour in those first two lines! I was afraid some people might get offended! And thank you so much for your kind comment Sunra!


      1. It’s hard not to, I’ve been there! 🙂 You’re welcome.


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About Me

Ordinary Person is a guy who likes to write. He writes fiction, essays, poems and other stuff.


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