Gantt Bone- 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.

The content of this poem is exceptionally accurate to my life. As much as I hate to admit, I can relate to every bit of this poem. From the title, you may think this is a sad poem. Come to find out, it’s not sad in the sense of “boo-hoo” but rather pathetic. The speaker accepted her pathetic nature and found a way to move on. It seems as though she is happy with her state and would not care to change a thing. She knows what it is like to be responsible and clearly does not like it or she would still be doing the same as before.

In the first stanza she gives an overview of the extent of laziness she accomplished, or rather, does not accomplish, each day. What specifically draws me into this poem is how in depth she goes to her daily activities. Most poets would not venture into the descriptive realm of poetry, aside from Shakespeare and Petrarch describing intensively the aspects of the girl or man that is the subject. By far the most interesting line in this poem is “Many days
I do not exercise, only consider it, then rub my curdy belly and lie down.” As stated before, she knows what it is like to actually care, she just does not want to.

The second stanza is there as a flashback to what she used to know. She only missed one day of school in her entire childhood, she went to ballet classes four times a week, everything was repetitive to her- beginning and ending the same each day. She was always taught to work for what she wanted and save. She was even taught that slothfulness was the only sin. She KNOWS what to do and when and how to do it, as stated before, she just does not want to.

The last stanza goes to show what lead to her laziness. What I can take from this last part is that for the longest time she did not sleep because she was afraid she would not get everything she needed to done. After finally getting tired she rested. And rested. And rested. she still is in this state of rest. Once she started there was an addiction formed and she could not quit. This poem could relate to almost everyone because everyone was once a student, everyone had to work for what they wanted, and everyone has been tired at some point in their life. The only way to heal tiredness and sickness is rest. This is god’s natural design and nothing works better.

Overall, the message of this poem is that working hard for what you want has it’s rewards. She worked her tail off in school and had her “industrious” routine, and now she can enjoy herself, doing what she wants. The theme would have to be work hard, nap hard. Nothing ever comes from nothing (aside from the government handouts now a days, but we see what state the country is in right now). Enjoy your work and regardless of the outcome, at least you have fun doing what you love.

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