Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Redoubling Our Efforts

Today is the first day of summer at my house, defined by the fact that no one had to get up before daylight arrived. Walker got his cast off this morning, and we were going to go swimming, but have decided to wait until the end of the week, hoping it will warm up. Even if it doesn't, we have a trip to South Carolina to look forward to pretty soon; it's always satisfyingly hot by the time we get there. I love hot weather! And I love a lull in how busy a household with teenagers can be.

Like all parents, sometime in May I start thinking I need a clone just so everything gets done and each child has one parent for each awards assembly (have you ever been to one where the child is asked to point out his parents and he has to admit sheepishly that they're not present? I have.) When I read Bob Hicok's poem "Redoubling our efforts" I was in that needing-a-clone mode. I still have work to do (a stack of finals to grade, an annual report to write before we go on vacation), but I don't have to coordinate everyone else's schedule at the same time I'm trying to get it done. There's a chance I can actually do a task, cross it off my list, and then sit back for a moment and consider it well done, rather than already be running for the next thing, already overdue.

Anyway, here's a poem for the overly-committed:

And a double would be handy.
While I talked to Charlie yesterday
as he fixed the leak in the hot water heater,
my double could have gone to Charlie's house
and slapped his son, who wants to join the army,
infantry no less.

But I hear you, Noam Chomsky.
Violence as a means of ending violence is illogical.

Sometimes I think there are three of you, Mr. Chomsky,
or four, given how busy you are
saying and writing smart things, though my wife
has issues with the one of you
who doesn't believe in Israel, being Jewish herself
and trusting there are structures in the brain
that crave a homeland. I know you like the brain too
is why I'm comfortable getting into this
with whichever Noam Chomsky does the brain thinking,
probably Noam Chomsky One.

I'm not smart enough for Bob Hicok Two or Bob, The Sequel,
maybe I'm a prequel of myself, I sometimes sense
a presence running ahead of me, saying hurry up,
that there's a rocket over my head, a kind
of diacritical like the umlaut over the a
in doppelganger, suggesting the way to pronounce my name
is really whoosh.

So Charlie's tooling away, he's got this crescent wrench
as big as Noam Chomsky's thigh, he's taken the nipple valve
off and found the leak, we're talking about the army
and then somehow the Klan, which he saw as a child,
they gathered on a highway east of here, hundreds of men
dressed like beds, and we're each of us saying
the country might have stepped over the line
into fascism, and I'm thinking, I could send my double ahead
to the future to find out, to warn them, and stay here
and eat my double's share of ice cream and enjoy
his share of investigating the topography of my wife,
and Charlie fixes the leak and leaves and the cats
come out of hiding, and I'm walking by a mirror and noticing
the guy walking by the other side of the mirror, and I stop
and he looks at me like I bet it's better in your world
and I look at him like I bet it's better in your world.

So we're tied, you see, the two of us, when it occurs to me
that either one or both or all of us should be driving
to Noam Chomsky's house with enough pencils and paper
to work this all out, the why do we kill each other stuff
and the where does language come from stuff.

The only answer I want when the night taps me on the shoulder
and asks, did you try, is yes, yes sir, hard and double hard
and harder still.

For now, I've hung up my book bag that says "May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one." But I've hung it on a hook where I can see it. I'll find another use for it; I know I can find another even though I've already tried hard and double hard. I can try harder still.

Even if you're not on the kind of academic schedule that lets you change gears in the summer, what kind of good intentions and plans do you have for the next couple of months?

8 comments:

Colleen said...

I'm going to try to read the entire Tale of Genji with some others on the interwebs.

I haven't been swimming in ten years. Dear. God.

Jenny said...

Aw, I miss swimming! It's been so long since I did any swimming.

My plans for the summer are mainly researchy and hinge on my getting a library card to the university library here. Just have to get that in motion and then I will be all set.

Harriet said...

It's been too cold and rainy to swim here -- it's in the 50s today. Maybe by the weekend we'll get to the pool. Right now I'm enjoying being able to make spur of the moment decisions to do things and I vow to make more of them, even though today's spur of the moment decision involved taking AJ to see Marmaduke which is quite possibly the worst movie ever made (he liked it anyway). I've also vowed to abandon the writing earlier in the evening and plow through more novels. I joined our public library's adult book club and started in on Anne LaMott's Imperfect Birds last night.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

What a good poem! I'm working on reading all of Tim O'Brien, which is going well so far.

Marie said...

I hope you have a wonderful summer. I went swimming for the first time in forever last year. now I'm already picking out this year's suit! Oh, i can't wait!

Jodie said...

Swimming sounds wonderful (good that your son has his cast off now, as summer must be miserable if you're encased in plaster).

It just tipped it down with rain over the past two days so looks a bit like a UK summer may mean spending lots of time hoping the rain stops. However I will be in Croatia in August for a week so perhaps a chance to escape it then.

FreshHell said...

We will go to the beach in 7 weeks. Until then (and after), apart from tonsil surgery and various day camps, I plan to take the girls to the lake as often as possible and to as many (decent) movies as we can. Toy Story III is first on the list.

I plan to loll around and do as little as possible. Read, drink wine, close my eyes and do nothing.

Jeanne said...

Colleen, I like the feeling when you have the time to tackle a really long book.

Colleen and Jenny, Swimming can include reading by the water's edge if you need some rationalization!

Harriet, it is great to feel less scheduled, isn't it? Last evening we went to see a movie with our kids that we knew would be a waste of time--Prince of Persia. It was fun to look at, but needed less dialogue.

Kim, your idea to read everything by one writer is a good one, too.

Marie, glad to hear other female adults in northern climates can find occasions to swim!

Jodie, it's been rainy and chilly here, but going to South Carolina usually does get us some really hot weather.

FreshHell, I like your plans! I'm hoping to spend some time going to movies and lakes, reading, and drinking wine (or G&T).