Jan/Feb 2022 • Vol. XLIV No. 1 Nonfiction |

It Is Hard When Your Job Is Hard But Doesn’t Appear to Be So

For instance, when the lawn crew arrives and you are reading. You are aware of how this looks. You are aware that if they glance through the window, they will see a woman in her pajamas, reclining in an easy chair, reading. They cradle heavy leaf blowers, wear goggles and earplugs. Your slippered feet are propped on an ottoman. They are well within their rights to think, Look at that idle woman. But in fact your reading is far from easy, though you read in an easy chair. Sometimes, in order to keep from quitting, you must bully or cajole yourself. You are fatigued from this reading, though it doesn’t show, so you get no credit for your stamina. If only, when reading difficult material, your face grew red and sweaty. If only your breathing grew ragged and labored. Like during great exertion at the gym. Dead lift and chest press. Hammer curl and lat raise. And now, the hardest exercise of all: lick finger to turn page. You can do it, BA: two more sets of eight reps.

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Beth Ann Fennelly directs the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, where she was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She’s won grants from the NEA and United States Artists. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize and three times been included in The Best American Poetry Series. Fennelly has published three books of poems and a book of essays with W. W. Norton. Her most recent book is The Tilted World, a novel she co-authored with her husband, Tom Franklin, published by HarperCollins. They live in Oxford with their three children.


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