Friday, April 11, 2008

Blues and more blues

Can you think of anything funnier than this?:
being roused from grading by noise from the
room where the kids are supposed to be asleep,
way past bedtime, and, upon investigation,
finding them, one earphone apiece, hooked up
to their mother's iPod and singing "Folsom
Prison Blues" at the top of their lungs...

Two little voices, aged 7 and 3, belting out

But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry

And following Johnny Cash's voice all the way down
to the depths of regret:

But I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free
But that train keeps rollin', and that's what
(big grave finish)



I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five and on
Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.
To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job months in advance. Work hard
and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.
There is no sin but sloth. Burn
to a wick and keep moving.

I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up
dead. In sleep I am looking
for poems in the shape of open
V's of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.

---Elizabeth Alexander


Lisa B. said...

If those are your boys in the first piece, oh my gosh. I love that, but I love it most if it's your boys.

And the second poem? why, that could be my very own story. Loving the poems you're choosing!

Renaissance Girl said...

yes, my boys. and since, unlike awesome you, i lack the ability to produce a presentable poem in a day, i poach the work of others for NaPoMo.

squadratomagico said...

Yes, great choices!

Anonymous said...

Hi!I'm a student of American Literature and I'm working on a project about this poem (Elizabeth Alexander "Blues") and I'm really interested in people's interpratation on this poem. What do you feel/think about while reading it? What do you think the poem is about? Thanks in advance for any comments and have a nice day! :)

Blue Cheese said...

Obviously, you're raising your children right.