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To Do List
by
Rob Baker


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Sun., June 5, 2011

  Atop ragged-edged scratch paper
I write "Mon."
and under this copy 
Sun.’s uncrossed-off items: 
"buy birdseed,"
"b-day e-card to Adele," 
"call re: basement leak,"
"bring ashes to cemetery," 
for instance

  I notice one task on the Sunday list
("Pour boiling H2O down drains")
that I did but forgot to cross off, 
so I scratch it out now.
Then I remember: this morning
I polished my black shoes--
though this wasn’t on the list--
so I write "polish shoes" 
then draw a line through it. 

  Creating and destroying lists
brings a certain sense of satisfaction,
and of futility.
My friend, a psychologist,
(who witnessed my list-making habits on overdrive 
when she visited during my eight-day hospice vigil),
said, "List-making gives the illusion of control."

  Onto the Mon. list I copy "Start exercising," 
an item that first appeared in May, 2002, 
and ever since has been transferred daily.
I’ve never had the pleasure 
of scratching it off, 
but its presence on repeated lists underscores
the sincerity of my determination to do it 
soon.

 

 

© by Rob Baker.
Used with the author’s permission.

Purchase a framed print of this poem.

 

Rob Baker teaches English at Barrington High School in Barrington, Illinois. He thinks of himself as more of a "prose guy" but, as he ages, has increasingly discovered the consolations and joys of poetry. Author of numerous short stories and freelance articles, an article Rob wrote for The National Council of Teachers of English, "Jimmy Santiago Baca: Poetry as Lifesaver," was chosen for inclusion in the 2010 edition of The Norton Field Guide to Writing. Rob frequently attends the Palatine, Illinois,  library’s "Second Saturday Poetry Workshop," and credits that group for constant inspiration and encouragement, and for being just all-around interesting and enjoyable people.


Post New Comment:
rick636:
such a fun and readable poem! i'd have to say, satisfaction is adding to the list, futility getting up the mojo to be able to cross them off!
Posted 08/07/2011 04:39 PM
karenpaulholmes:
yes, I can relate too. I like the way you tell on yourself, especially with the exercising. I have "organize desk" perpetually on my list. The 8-day hospice vigil begs for more information -- perhaps that's another poem?
Posted 07/08/2011 06:38 AM
Rob:
@LindaC Thanks! I've felt that with many a poem--thinking I should have written it. Never been on the receiving end of the feeling though! :)
Posted 07/06/2011 08:07 PM
LindaCrosfield:
Just rolled into motel after an 11 hour drive and found this, which I immediately read to my husband. Love it, even if it hits home all over the place and I'm wondering why I didn't write it!
Posted 07/05/2011 10:04 PM
Rob:
@Gail: I just looked at the Poet of the Month section and discovered it is you!! Great interview. Interesting and insightful. I'm going to check out that book you mention, too!
Posted 07/05/2011 06:17 PM
Rob:
Love that rule, loisflmom! Never heard it before, but I shall repeat it often :) Thanks!
Posted 07/05/2011 03:46 PM
loisflmom:
There is a special place in heaven for those of us who do a task that is NOT on our list, write it down and immediately cross it off. Three of those forgive one holdover, I'm told!
Posted 07/05/2011 02:17 PM
Rob:
Hey, Christina: Great to hear from you and thanks for putting me on your calendar and for your nice comments:) Hope things are well with you. We'll be in touch by email or facebook soon, I hope!
Posted 07/05/2011 01:01 PM
Rob:
Hey, all! Thanks for the nice feedback! Linda: I don't have a webpage (shame on me :)That's another thing that's been on my to do list forever :o Someone copied and posted the Santiago Baca article (illegally, I think :). Here's the link: http://www.unm.edu/~joglesby/Baca.pdf
Posted 07/05/2011 01:00 PM
cmontana:
I so looked forward to reading your poem today. Yes! I had it on my calendar and now I can cross it off. I enjoyed it very much. Can't wait to read more!
Posted 07/05/2011 11:08 AM
Gail Goepfert:
Rob, the way you weave the ordinary with the black shoes, hospice, and ashes, pushes the reader to put on the brakes just when it seems like a simple list of tasks! Nice!
Posted 07/05/2011 08:11 AM
dotief@comcast.net:
The most powerful part to me was "bring ashes the cemetery." Wow! Such a solemn act included with such mundane activities--that was a strong, unexpected punch. Very nice!
Posted 07/05/2011 08:03 AM
Linda:
Rob, I am a list-maker too and can relate to your poem so well. Do you have a web page where I can read more of your work, especially the article on Jimmy Santiago Baca. Thanks! Linda http://lindakulp.blogspot.com/
Posted 07/05/2011 07:27 AM
Eiken:
Rob, I really like this poem, especially your determination to exercise which is something that is on the list daily but not YET scratched off. Good fun and something that resonates with so many. I like the "illusion of control" also, it makes sense. Thank you for an enjoyable poem today, Maire in Ireland.
Posted 07/05/2011 05:52 AM


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