Setting the Stage to Kill Social Security
What Do You Know Now About Getting Old...

ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Blues

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.

Elizabeth Alexander

Although this poem is not precisely about aging, it resonates with me in that regard. It was written when the poet was younger than 50.

Perhaps you recognize Elizabeth Alexander's name from President Barack Obama's inauguration when she read her Praise Song for the Day. But long before that, she was a well-known poet with a boatload of prizes, a playwright, an essayist, a teacher and more.

According to Wikipedia, DNA analysis shows that she is related to Stephen Colbert.

Currently, Alexander is both the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies and the chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University. You can find out more about her at her website.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: Loaded for Bear

Comments

I like that a lot. Perhaps I was that lazy in my middle years. I have vague memories of sleeping in, but not these days.

She's captured the existential qualities of living life to the fullest at a time when our culture gives us short shrift. I told my barber last week that I am happier now than at any earlier time in my life, when as Wordsworth put it, I was busy "getting and spending."

As a sometime reader and commentator, I send these comments by Sir John Mortimer.
"There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward" As an 84 year old, my sentiments exactly!

Lovely poem. It expresses my feelings wonderfully.

The poem aptly describes me now, but not before I was 50. I was far too busy to be lazy then.

I do agree with NWD's quote from John Mortimer.

There's an Internet joke about a doctor asking his patient if he smokes. The answer is "No". Then he asks if he drinks; same answer. The doctor goes down the list of life's pleasures like eating junk food, having sex, etc. to which the patient answers 'no' to all. Then the patient asks the doctor if he will live a long life and the doctor says something like "Why would you want to?"

I may have muddled the joke (poor memory, you know) but that's the gist of it and I am in total agreement.

I would say that the poem speaks of all the joys of "retirement" to come for her. For myself, I appreciate it all now and indulge, if I so choose. If I so CHOOSE
and its wonderful!

Yep. I can sure relate to that poem.

Nice.

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