I have no time for the child prodigies anymore.
No interest in the arrogant authority of youth,
beautiful, wildly successful, and celebrated.
I look now to the starving artists
the has-beens, the wannabes, the never-weres,
the ones who worked a day job their whole lives,
the ones who were panned by critics,
never sold a piece in their lives,
the ones who went mad or killed themselves,
the ones who were buried in paupers’ graves,
the ones who never gave up.
Henri Rousseau was one of these.
A tax collector by day,
he picked up his brush with a new purpose in his 40s.
He painted the jungles of his dreams
with children’s books as his guides.
He never left France,
never looked a living tiger in the eye.
But his tigers are wild and ferocious and alive,
crouching and stalking in seas of green ferns.
They called him childlike and primitive;
now he’s considered a self-taught genius,
but he still had to work part-time jobs
and play his violin on the street to survive.
So here’s to the discontented baristas, cashiers, and cubicle slaves,
who wonder if it’s too late to even try anymore
but go home at night and create,
seeing the world with new eyes,
whether the world is ready for it or not.
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