“Study Electricity, Etc.” by David Kirby

David Kirby


Third item on Jay Gatsby’s self-improvement schedule after “Rise from bed” and “Dumbbell exercise and wall scaling.”

You did that already—not electricity,
but the et cetera part. Et cetera means
“and the rest,” and you’ve mastered that.
You work from home, as we do these days,
but you put on a nice top and a dab of makeup
and combed your hair. When the children
need help with their homework, you make
time, and when your husband says he wants
to give them two more math problems
and some vocabulary, you say fine. The four
of you have lunch together, and when he takes
the kids out to play with the dog, you manage
a quick nap. Then tea, then you wrap up
your work and make notes for tomorrow.
Scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit cup
for the children. Let them watch Frozen
for the hundredth time—how could it hurt?
Now you and your husband can have dinner
on the deck: goat cheese, shrimp with
mushrooms, a bottle of Sancerre so cold
you think your teeth might crack. You walk
around the block, making room as others
approach. Bath time. PJs. Their books, yours.
When you were walking, you waved to other
families on their porches. They waved back.

from Poets Respond
May 30, 2020


David Kirby: “Low-effort thinkers make headlines every day by reacting angrily and even dangerously to the guidelines we have to follow if we’re going to heal our world. To prepare for his future, young Jay Gatsby resolves to ‘study electricity, etc.’ For years I’ve wondered what that ‘etc.’ is, but COVID-19 has given me my answer: it’s the hundred unrecorded daily ways in which we care for ourselves and others with patience and love.” (web)

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