“Enthusiasm,” by Charles Harper WebbPosted: January 9, 2022
I find that I relate to this poem quite a bit. Like the narrator, I had a penchant for taking things to extremes when I was young. Anything I was interested in, I dove into with intensity. This approach to things frequently led to burnout.
As an adult, I’ve reined that tendency in quite a bit. Sure, every now and then I find myself getting into something obsessively for days or weeks at a time, but overall, I’m much more about moderation.
“Don’t overdo it,” Dad yelled, watching me
Play shortstop, collect stamps and shells,
Roll on the grass laughing until I peed my pants.
“Screw him,” I said, and grabbed every cowry
I could find, hogged all the books I could
From Heights Library, wore out the baseball
Diamond dawn to dusk, and—parents in Duluth—
Gorged on bountiful Candy dusk to dawn.
Not until a Committee wrote of my poems,
“Enthusiasm should be tempered,”
Did I change my song. I write now
The way I live: calm and sober, steering
Toward the Golden Mean. The Committee
Was right to withhold funds. I’d have bought
A hundred box turtles with lemon-speckled shells,
Flyfished for rainbows six months straight,
Flown to the Great Barrier Reef and dived
Non-stop among pink coral and marble cones,
Living on chocolate malts, peaches, and barbecue.
I’d have turned into a ski bum, married
Ten women in ten states, written nothing
Poetry would glance at twice, instead
Of rising at 5:00 as I do now, writing
‘Til noon about matters serious and deep,
Teaching ’til 6:00, eating a low-fat meal
High in fiber and cruciferous vegetables,
Then bed by 9:00, alarm clock set
Five minutes late: my one indulgence of the day.