What value an artist

born hairless and pink

raised in the same lane

as the rest of us

and somehow set free

to turn away.

People aren’t people

no one’s unique

we each serve a purpose

and it’s not what you think

so before you get ideas

about turning your hair blue

consider your status

as a freak

who doesn’t belong.

And don’t give me that shit

about how you’re different

You are no different than the rest of us

born to work

born to work to an end

born to work to an end that makes you

and everyone around you


and better

and bulletproof

with a luxury car

and vacations to Europe

and a well-lit path for your kids to follow

on their way to happiness

in this

the real world.

Happiness doesn’t grow on trees,

you know

You have to earn it

fight for it

Sure, maybe

if you go to the right schools,

and study with the right people,

just maybe

you can scratch out a living

as a true artist

at an ad agency

selling sugary cereal

with full sleeve tattoos

and a nose ring

and you’ll be like the rest of us

serving the end

that you desperately want to avoid.


And I say to you, O my lord

that your rigid box

and book of life

is a figment of your own imagination

your own creativity

and that you’re actually

selling yourself short.

Embrace your dark side

then let it go

and invite your mind to wander

as far away as it’s ever been

oceans away

from familiar lines

in familiar markets

filled with fake food

marketed to look real

Go there

Then come back to me

and explain how easy it is

to take this seriously

when you know what else exists

in the wild

– fenceless and divine.

Because the truth is

you can’t come back

The truth is

you’re never the same

This is the curse of the artist

who wander the wild

reporting back to the rest of us

the beauty that they see

in insignificance

slitting their wrists

and shouting to the world




at the truth.

But the real world pays no mind

because there are bills to pay

and those of us who have danced

in the frothy sea

beyond the lines


Because we must

Because in the end, you’re right

the role of an artist

has no value here

short of checkout line writers

packaged perfectly in panic attacks

so we cover our eyes

and fling filament into the ether

desperate to reveal

the beauty we see in everything

To someone.



This is the thirtieth and final poem of my personal 30-day poetry challenge to break away from the machine to think about things that don’t matter. Thanks for tagging along. (I still have no idea what I’m doing.) – Jim

Quiet as a Mouse

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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