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Can Tie Shoes but Won't

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A poem analysis of Can Tie Shoes but Won't
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  Saleh 1 Zelgai Saleh Mr. McCabe English 12 AP September 13, 2014 Can Tie Shoes but Won’t  When reading this poem I jump to many different images and ideas and cling to certain lines and what concepts they invoke in me. It took me many, many readings to get to an understanding that while is most certainly lacking, is at least somewhat comprehensive and attempts to incorporate more than just one element of the poem. The meaning to me has changed multiple times. The first time I read it I thought most certainly it was about defiance and rebelling, but I realized that it’s just the title that leads me there and much of the rest of the poem conflicts with that understanding. I’ve gone through several other ideas, like a commentary on  being odd and different or taking alternative paths in life and how it affects us. Right now I’m in a place that I think makes at least some sense, hopefully. To me, at least to me as I exist now, the  poem is about acceptance. It seems to me that the poem is telling us that the “churning current” of life is inevitable as it is in a physical river. The current is inherent, there is no stopping it. Yet most of us in our “mid - river flotilla” spend out life fighting the current. Pushing against it, constantly fighting to  prevent being swept away. The poem shows us an alternative route. Thomas Lux creates this boy who starts the poem “slung” against the current  but is presumably swept away, finding himself “lost”. Or is it “half  - lost” or maybe “less lost with most”.  To me those lines are very powerful. When he invokes that imagery of the boy being swept away we all assume that he’s “lost” but  Saleh 2 the poem seems to think that he might be even less lost than “all the other boats” who are still fighting the inevitable current. Why fight what cannot be prevented? For the rest of the poem the boy traverses the river, carefully, and slowly. “Cutting the current without fighting it”. The poem starts with a sense of urgency, using language that invokes images of a huge, rapid river. But in the second half after being swept away, after the  boy stops fighting the river and starts to slowly traverse it the poem become much calmer. It starts to describe the river as a beautiful and relaxing place. Now that the boy has stopped fighting he’s left able to enjoy th e river. To me the poem is telling us that adversary and hardship are inevitable, and that throwing ourselves head first into anxiety and constantly fighting we lose our ability to enjoy. The poem says that the only way to truly overcome hardship is to accept that it is inevitable and to take a step back. Allow yourself to be swept away so that you are able to assess your relationship to the world and take a more careful, and joyful route through life. Perhaps I see the poem as I do now because I’ve been reading too much Taoist  philosophy. I have no doubt that of the influence of the things I read on my understanding of life and of other literature. But I also think that the meaning I’m deriving which is very in line with  basic Taoist beliefs is a very universal concept. I hear iterations of it everywhere. For example in class, when you, Mr. McCabe, were talking about how anxiety over grades hurts our ability to learn. I understood what you were saying to mean (perhaps completely wrong) that when we’re so worried about getting a good grade we lose our ability to actually write what we want and actually learn and better ourselves. This seems somewhat in line with that basic meaning. That  Saleh 3 constantly fighting and worrying destroys our ability to slow down, be deliberate and appreciate life.
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