By Elizabeth Alexander
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.
mrkinch, you made me think of this with your post on procrastination. I took a poetry writing class with Elizabeth at Penn, taught by Daniel Hoffman, and she started teaching at Chicago the year I left grad school. We also took a class on 18th century literature together at Penn with Paul Fussell -- a graduate-level class that I took as a junior, which was very difficult but I was determined to take a class with Fussell and knew he would be on leave my senior year; and she was the friendliest person in the class to a lowly undergrad. She's a really neat woman and a wonderful writer.
perkypaduan came over yesterday and brought Russell -- well, brought Breaking Up and Heaven's Burning, though we didn't get to the latter as we were interrupted by necessities like lunch and the dishwasher repairman. Breaking Up has a decidedly mediocre script but Russell and Salma Hayek were both quite enjoyable...I'm sorry, I just adore him scruffy and wearing glasses. He was supposed to be playing a photographer but I kept thinking for some reason that he was a college professor (she was a teacher) and that made me drool too. I discovered from Perky that Best Buy has Heaven's Burning for $5.99, so I may just buy it and we can watch it at our leisure later. The wonderful fileg sent me Proof, so the next time I drool over Russell, I can drool over Hugo too.
Otherwise yesterday was a chore day -- getting dishwasher repaired, getting work done, dinner with parents who are midway through tearing apart my childhood bedroom, getting stuff done that I'd promised to do for people. Unexciting, but any day when you're burning a CD of '60s music for someone, not bad at all.
Tonight we have tickets to the Wizards-76ers game (three years without seeing them and then twice in two weeks), and in the afternoon my younger son has basketball practice, and right now I need to go drive him to Hebrew school as my husband has taken our older son to a testing program for the gifted and talented magnet school that he adamantly does not want to attend. I guess getting in is the first step, and then we worry about that.