ON SUCCESS      a poem by Henry Edward Fool

By anyone’s standards
Marcel Bertrand is a success.
He came here from France,
a humble teacher,
and ended up
the owner of a fine hotel
in one of the most coveted
cities in the world.

By contrast I guess
you might say that I
am UN- success- ful.

By the time he was my age
Marcel Bertrand owned a hotel.
By the time I was my age,
I worked for
a guy
who owned a hotel.
It’s a simple equation.

M. Bertrand worked THIRTY years
to get where he is today.
It was not easy; he worked long,
he worked hard.

During those same thirty years
I worked as well.
It was not easy for me either.
I worked long, I worked hard.

I put in my time as they say.

It is not as if
during those same thirty years
--while M. Bertrand was working
to attain his success—
I was laying around
on an old couch
in my underwear
eating Doritos,
drinking beer,
belching,
and watching daytime soap operas.

(Though, admittedly, some time was spent in that manner.)

For the most part
however,
during those very same years,
while
M. Bertrand was working and slaving away,
I too
was working and slaving away.

(I have the scars to prove it.)

I must speak now
not so much for myself,
but for the tens of thousands,
hundreds of thousands,
or millions of other good
honest,
genuinely hard-working people
who,
during those thirty years  
were also working and
slaving away.

Many of them do not now own hotels.
Some do,
admittedly.
Most don’t.

It’s just a fact that
people who work long
and who work hard,
and who put in their time,
do not always end up
owning hotels.  


These are things I feel must be said.

While M. Bertrand was fixing the wiring
in a room, in the hotel
which he did not yet own,
I was busy fixing broken windows
in apartment buildings
that I would never own.

Later,
while M. Bertrand was being asked
if he might be interested
in managing the hotel
which he did not yet own,
I was being asked
if I could fix more broken windows
in apartment houses
which I would never own.

And when the owner of the hotel
which M. Bertrand would inevitably own
died
and left the building to a careless drunk of a son
who had no interest whatsoever
in running a hotel…
that careless drunk
asked M. Bertrand
if he would like to buy the damned place.

The guy I was working for, meanwhile,
continued living (did not die, as they say),
but, passed his property on to a son
who did not drink,
and who
--very much interested in retaining his property--
then turned to me
and asked
if I would like to fix more broken windows.

I would.
And I did.

I had to do something
with the time
I was wasting  
neither managing
nor buying
unwanted hotels.

Sure I admit I should
own a hotel or two by this stage in my life,
and I would too,
had I not squandered all those years
working for a man whose son wished to possess property
instead of a man whose son wished only
to rid himself of it.

Looking back now,
I can see
that was my mistake.

(In my defense however, I must say,
it was difficult to see at the moment.)
In closing,
for philosophical reasons,
let me say only this:

If you look in Books In Print
under my name,
you’ll find an entry
or two.
Maybe more.

If you look in Books In Print
under Marcel Bertrand,
you will find
nothing

only a blank space
where his entries would have been
had he only worked
just a little harder.
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