Orozco’s despair was not just in finding himself poor, but in discovering that effort, honest intentions, and gentlemanly status had nothing to do with sucess in a commercial economy.
I had ceased to be a writer of tolerably poor tales and essays, and had become a tolerably good Surveyor of the Customs. That was all. But, nevertheless, it is any thing but agreeable to be haunted by a suspicion that one's intellect is dwindling away; or exhaling, without your consciousness, like ether out of a phial; so that, at every glance, you find a smaller and less volatile residuum. Of the fact, there could be no doubt; and, examining myself and others, I was led to conclusions in reference to the effect of public office on the character, not very favorable to the mode of life in question. In some other form, perhaps, I may hereafter develop these effects. Suffice it here to say, that a Custom-House officer, of long continuance, can hardly be a very praiseworthy or respectable personage, for many reasons; one of them, the tenure by which he holds his situation, and another, the very nature of his business, which—though, I trust, an honest one—is of such a sort that he does not share in the united effort of mankind.An effect—which I believe to be observable, more or less, in every individual who has occupied the position—is, that, while he leans on the mighty arm of the Republic, his own proper strength departs from him. He loses, in an extent proportioned to the weakness or force of his original nature, the capability of self-support. If he possess an unusual share of native energy, or the enervating magic of place do not operate too long upon him, his forfeited powers may be redeemable. The ejected officer—fortunate in the unkindly shove that sends him forth betimes, to struggle amid a struggling world—may return to himself, and become all that he has ever been. But this seldom happens. He usually keeps his ground just long enough for his own ruin, and is then thrust out, with sinews all unstrung, to totter along the difficult footpath of life as he best may. Conscious of his own infirmity,—that his tempered steel and elasticity are lost,—he for ever afterwards looks wistfully about him in quest of support external to himself. His pervading and continual hope—a hallucination, which, in the face of all discouragement, and making light of impossibilities, haunts him while he lives, and, I fancy, like the convulsive throes of the cholera, torments him for a brief space after death—is, that, finally, and in no long time, by some happy coincidence of circumstances, he shall be restored to office. This faith, more than any thing else, steals the pith and availability out of whatever enterprise he may dream of undertaking. Why should he toil and moil, and be at so much trouble to pick himself up out of the mud, when, in a little while hence, the strong arm of his Uncle will raise and support him? Why should he work for his living here, or go to dig gold in California, when he is so soon to be made happy, at monthly intervals, with a little pile of glittering coin out of his Uncle's pocket? It is sadly curious to observe how slight a taste of office suffices to infect a poor fellow with this singular disease. Uncle Sam's gold—meaning no disrespect to the worthy old gentleman—has, in this respect, a quality of enchantment like that of the Devil's wages. Whoever touches it should look well to himself, or he may find the bargain to go hard against him, involving, if not his soul, yet many of its better attributes; its sturdy force, its courage and constancy, its truth, its self-reliance, and all that gives the emphasis to manly character.
Maria, lonely prostitute on a street of pain,You, at least, hail me and speak to meWhile a thousand others ignore my face.You offer me an hour of love,And your fees are not as costly as most.You are the madonna of the lonely,The first-born daughter in a world of pain.You do not turn fat men aside,Or trample on the stuttering, shy ones,You are the meadow where desperate menCan find a moment's comfort.Men have paid more to their wivesTo know a bit of peaceAnd could not walk away without the guiltThat masquerades as love.You do not bind them, lovely Maria, you comfort themAnd bid them return. Your body is more Christian than the Bishop'sWhose gloved hand cannot feel the dropping of my blood.Your passion is as genuine as most,Your caring as real!But you, Maria, sacred whore on the endless pavement of pain,You, whose virginity each man may make his ownWithout paying ought but your fee,You who know nothing of virgin births and immaculate conceptions,You who touch man's flesh and caress a stranger,Who warm his bed to bring his aching skin alive,You make more sense than stock markets and football gamesWhere sad men beg for virility.You offer yourself for a fee--and who offers himself for less?At times you are cruel and demanding--harsh and insensitive,At times you are shrewd and deceptive--grasping and hollow.The wonder is that at times you are gentle and concerned,Warm and loving.You deserve more respect than nuns who hide their sex for eternal love;Your fees are not so high, nor your prejudice so virtuous.You deserve more laurels than the self-pitying mother of many children,And your fee is not as costly as most.Man comes to you when his bed is filled with brass and emptiness,When liquor has dulled his sense enoughTo know his need of you.He will come in fantasy and despair, Maria,And leave without apologies.He will come in loneliness--and perhapsLeave in loneliness as well.But you give him more than soldiers who win medals and pensions,More than priests who offer absolutionAnd sweet-smelling ritual,More than friends who anticipate his deathOr challenge his life,And your fee is not as costly as most.You admit that your love is for a fee,Few women can be as honest.There are monuments to statesmen who gave nothing to anyoneExcept their hungry ego,Monuments to mothers who turned their childrenInto starving, anxious bodies,Monuments to Lady Liberty who makes poor men prisoners.I would erect a monument for you--who give more than most--And for a meager fee.Among the lonely, you are perhaps the loneliest of all,You come so close to loveBut it eludes youWhile proper women march to church and fantasizeIn the silence of their rooms,While lonely women take their husbands' armsTo hold them on life's surface,While chattering women fill their closets with clothes andTheir lips with lies,You offer love for a fee--which is not as costly as most--And remain a lonely prostitute on a street of pain.You are not immoral, little Maria, only tired and afraid,But you are not as hollow as the police who pursue you,The politicians who jail you, the pharisees who scorn you.You give what you promise--take your paltry fee--andWander on the endless, aching pavements of pain.You know more of universal love than the nations who thrive on war,More than the churches whose dogmas are private vendettas made sacred,More than the tall buildings and sprawling factoriesWhere men wear chains.You are a lonely prostitute who speaks to me as I pass,And I smile at you because I am a lonely man.