Archive for September 6th, 2009

I like to rhyme. It’s in my genes. My grandfather was a poet, always ready with a witty couplet which made his children and grandchildren, and all those young and old who flocked to him, cringe and groan and ache with laughter all at once. To him my family traces the urge to compose a limerick upon hearing a silly name, to write an ode on the occasion of a birthday, to turn a simple request into a playful verse. As a child, at the dining table with my grandparents, I quickly learned to recognize the kinds of words or topics in conversation which would elicit a rhyme from my grandfather, and I would look toward him and watch the twinkle in his blue eyes and imagine I could hear the whir of his mind and I would await the parting of his lips and the delivery of the silly poem–for it was invariably silly–with such eagerness I would forget to eat. Luckily, my grandfather’s mind worked with lightning speed, so I never had to wait for long.

So the other day, as I procrastinated by poking around Facebook, I noticed that my cousin Jared had the following status update: “Full of fried clams!” (He was on Martha’s Vineyard at the time.) To which another cousin Curtis, Chair of an English Department, responded “Fax me some.” Well. The image of a faxed fried clam was too much to resist. I dropped what I was doing (probably working on my novel) and in a few minutes posted my own comment:

The junior professor
Knocked on Curtis’ door:
“First sheet of a fax–
I think there is more,
But the paper has jammed
And I’m told you’re the one
Who can solve any problem
Before it’s begun.
I checked on the toner
And Tray 1 and Tray 2
Can you think of anything
Else we can do?”
Said Curtis, who wished
For a moment of peace:
“Just call the technician
And what’s all that grease?”
“Oh that, on my fingers?”
Said the blundering prof,
“That came from the fax
And I can’t get it off!”
“From the fax? That’s for me?”
Asked Curtis, now keen
To walk down the hall
To the pesky machine.
He poked in his head
And peered around in it,
Saw the stain and then said
“Now wait just a minute!
Good thing that you called me,
For this isn’t a jam:
Someone has sent me-
My God! A fried clam!”

I post this not because I think it is a fine piece of poetry, but because of the joy I felt in writing it. How fun and liberating it was to spend fifteen minutes being silly and creative. I thought of the clam and the fax, and of course there had to be a paper jam, and I giggled, sitting in the café writing this, at the thought of an actual fried clam in a fax machine. And the comment had the added benefit of being the start to a string of comments in which the grandchildren reminisced about our grandfather and our childhoods punctuated with his verse. I felt nostalgic but light and peaceful after the whole exchange. And that was an excellent way to turn back to my work.

My grandfather was Maurice Sagoff, by the way. I highly recommend his book, Shrinklits. Seventy distillations of the classics, rendered in hilarious verse. If he were alive today, he would no doubt be writing the Twitter version.

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