Friday, March 13, 2009

Sharing A Poem: What's The Matter With Puritanical?

I identify with this poem so much that I carry it around with me. It's a window into my brain. Only my cranial calculator doesn't really get going until I'm on the train, and then it cruises along in high gear until I finally fall asleep, sixteen hours later. Miles ran, dollars spent or saved, poems read, vacation days used, calories ingested and expended, the day's correspondence sent and received, places to go, people to see, lives not yet lived. 

Adding It Up

by Philip Booth*

My mind's eye opens before

the light gets up. I

lie awake in the small dark,

figuring payments, or how

to scrape paint; I count

rich women I didn't marry.

I measure bicycle miles

I pedaled last Thursday

to take off weight; I give some

passing thought to the point

that if I hadn't turned poet

I might well be some other

sort of accountant. Before

the sun reports its own weather

my mind is openly at it:

I chart my annual rainfall.

or how I'll plant seed if

I live to be fifty. I look up

words like "bilateral symmetry"

in my mind's dictionary; I consider

the bivalve mollusc, re-pick

last summer's mussels on Condon Point,

preview the next red tide, and

hold my breath: I listen hard

to how my heart valves are doing.

I try not to get going

too early: bladder permitting,

I mean to stay in bed until six;

I think in spirals, building

horizon pyramids, yielding to

no man's flag but my own.

I think of Saul Steinberg:

I play touch football on one leg,

I seesaw on the old cliff, trying

to balance things out: job,

wife, children, myself.

My mind's eye opens before

my body is ready for its

first duty: cleaning up after

an old-maid Basset in heat.

That, too, I inventory:

the Puritan strain will out,

even at six a.m.; sun or no sun,

I'm Puritan to the bone, down to

the marrow and then some:

if I'm not sorry I worry,

if I can't worry I count. 

*Turns out, Booth was a part-time Mainer.

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