Tag Archives: age

One Stupid Song

Too long
since I was last excited
by a stupid song.  

This must be why the classic rock radio format exists.
This must be why the pop oldies radio format exists.
This must be why the old school jams radio format exists.
This must be why “we play everything radio”
plays nothing but classic rock, pop oldies, old school jams…
a certain layer of the population
wants to be reminded of what mattered once,
wants to be reminded endlessly of being surprised
and thus changed
by one stupid song.

No one listens to the radio for surprise anymore.
No one wants to be surprised, really.
They tell each other what to hear.
They choose their music on line.
They watch videos on line.
They watch the videos and listen to the music
then box it all up and carry it around
so they do not have to be surprised, ever.

Let me say I know how stupid today is.
Let me say I know that the radio is stupid now.
Let me say I know how good it is to carry with you
a cache of anti-stupid and to have it near at hand.

But I pity you too —
for this will not happen to you
nearly often enough:

4 AM.  
2 PM.
9:35 AM.
10:30 PM.
Monday.  Tuesday. Saturday night.
Driving 95 north through New Jersey.  
The 405 or PCH in the Southland.  
New England backroad, border of MA and RI,
not sure which state you’re in minute to minute.
Under full moon, Card Sound Road, FL, going flat out,
due west back through mangroves
toward US 1
and then out across the Gulf.

Volume down.
“What’s that?”
It’s…gin and juice.
It’s…no future.
It’s monkey toward heaven,it’s domino,  it’s loser smile,
it’s low-placed friends,
it’s black metal keys,
it’s the noise, the music, the shit,
the jam, the bomb.

“Is this the new Seger or the new AC/DC?
The new Prince, the new Boss, the new
Wu-Tang?  It doesn’t sound like 
it should be but it — I know what this is,
this is the new goddamned WHO!
Who the fuck’s playing drums, on the mic,
when did this come out, is this the new album,
the new single, 
where the hell did this come from,
when did this drop,
turn it up
turn it up
turn it up some more —
and if that is as loud as it goes 
that’s not enough
so I will be selling this car as soon as we stop — ”

You pull the good, warm body next to you closer
and smile like a clown, not caring
as your smile is as large as the music.

I wish you all just once this joy
of having the stupid radio deliver you
from the evil of the stupider world.

I wish you just once 
to be surprised by the radio
with no earbuds in
to make it a private revelation.

I wish you the joy of looking stupid in public
as you fall forever into the arms
of one perfect, stupid song…

Ad Astra

All my young friends
All my young peers
All those young fascists say

age is just a number
because they are stupid 
in the ways of aging

God, please protect them
as I lose myself
to my snickering, flickering body
because more and more
I want to stab them a little bit
for their blithe dismissal

I don’t want them
to be this oblivious to me
wincing forward
with hands that won’t close
around what I want
every sharp pain
under my left arm 
that spins me 
between exhilaration
at the thought of the Great Divide
and terror
at the approach of the Great Divide
the first whispers of decay
behind my forehead

but I suppose, God, that you should
bless the young
for this dumb they carry
as a birthright rocket
to infinity and beyond

as people used to say
ad astra per aspera)

That ignorance was mine once too
I’d like it back
but will settle for a night or two
of uninterrupted sleep
and someone to hear me
blurt out upon waking

“I’m ok with dying right now
If this is how the rest of life begins
I have seen enough”


Dark Dance

I may be
dark dance,
but I do
somewhat move.

I might be
sick with trance,
but I am
not altogether unmoved —

even muscles stiff as this
have memory
of twitching and start
pulsing, so slowly

that to see them
one might think of corpse
or perhaps coma. But
they’re not —

can’t explain
how they think
of these things:
my brain isn’t theirs,

but they do.  And thus
my back against this wall,
I am not unmoved,

merely sunk in, dark dance 
wallflower before ordinary
ecstasies of quotidian
minuet.  It’s just this:

I seek frenzy again
as I once knew it,
and this, I see,
is not. 

Knee And Stars

drunken joy,
running through unfamiliar yards
in the dark.

two posts,
and chicken wire knee-high strung
between them, part
of a forgotten fence
around a disused flowerbed
by the back hedge.

I fly —

a complete front flip!
couldn’t have done that if I had tried —

and now my back’s screaming insults,
left knee’s bent, left leg under me,
no breath in my jarred chest,
lying where I fell,
realizing no one saw the stupendous
if inadvertent feat I’d just pulled.

no moon,
all of the stars at once.
it hurts, but…

worth it
still, thirty years later,
when my left knee chooses
to remind me
of the incident
as if it had just happened,
as if I’d never recovered.

Ribbon And Bell

Ribbon on the ground
and a bell on the ribbon.
One of my pets will chase it
if I pull it, leave it on the floor
waiting for me to pull it again

if I stop.  The other
will chase it too, but if I leave it
she’ll steal it and hide it
and I’ll hear it later when she pulls it

herself.  One old, patient cat;
one young, impetuous ferret.
One who trusts in the future
and in me; one who trusts

me in the moment and handles
the future for herself. I”m so reliable
that I pull the ribbon and the bell
whenever either one’s around.

But I try to remember
to pick it up when I’m done.
Coddle age and patience,
thwart youth and skill —

she’ll never remember it anyway
the next time I pull it for her.
She’ll just chase it around,
waiting to see how long it takes

before memory fails me, and she takes over.



Mildew where the frame
meets the paper. Loss
where the canvas 
has been eaten away.

Lily pond
of silver mottling to black
under the glass
of the mirror.

Tarnish and rust
in the etching
on worn hilts.

My forehead
iced with dry skin
after a day in the sun;
brow wrinkles
that won’t disappear.

This is what 
outlasting your moment
looks like — and

it is not


Your True Face

It comes to you
slowly, and not early;
years go by and the mirror
shows it to you only from a distance,
as if you were in the air above a flood, 
watching thick dark water 
rise above levees to fill
once-safe streets, overwhelm
homes, flow into unprotected spaces.

Then one day you’ll see it
looking back at you.
All the debris will have risen to the surface,
random scraps gathered together
in one place at last, swirling slowly
in the glass.

You’ll ask yourself
what it means, how it is possible
that the mess staring out at you
is you at last; 

but you’ll recognize yourself
regardless, and have to decide
at that moment how comfortable
you will remain with it

because it will never be anything else
again except
a pool full of wreckage 
that once were stored away
which now are visible to you,
no matter how much you wish
they were not.


Sun And Haze

What a day
of sun and haze.

What it led to: digging out
shorts, sandals.  

What I felt like:
old man, old man.

What I know about
old man: I’m

settled into this age,
this body.  What I may do:

modify it some, clean it up
a little, make it more sound.

What will not change:
its confirmed age, how good it feels

in the sun and haze 
when the breeze tickles

the hair on my legs,
curves around my stuck-out belly.

What is untrue: that cliche about how age
is just a number.  That’s the mantra

of those terrified by age, 
who deny the real changes and wisdom

and sense that only comes with aging.
What is a payoff: how much more I love 

the edge of experience, now that I know
how far I can lean over when I’m on it;

how much I know about what it feels like
to fall.  What is true:  I am old man,

fine old fatty.  I look stupid
when I say I am not, but I’m not stupid.

I can count very high.  And
I count.


Running Downhill

You’re running downhill.

You’re twelve again, the age
on the cusp of caring
where you end up,
but right now
you’re willing
to let the slope carry you
though you move a little stumbly,
a little floppy,
faster and faster.

You thought this was over
and here you are
getting knocked around again
by the old perpetual motion urge.

Running downhill
as fast and dumb as you can:
that’s glory to the kid you were,
terror to the old man you are,
and right now you’re both and that’s
wholeness, something you’re willing
to run to. 

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In the haze
and the shadow
I still see you

Fall clouds its air
on its warmer days. 
I was told once
it was from the slow burn-off
of life from leaves. 
I don’t know
if it’s true
but it should be;

because those are the days
when I miss you most
and I feel myself burning away too.

And in the haze
and the shadow
I still see you

I’m no metaphysician who wants
or needs to have it all explained.
I’m just a man in the middle of it all
who knows the past is past and usually
lets it go, but who now and then
falls into thought about you.

Here’s how it was: you were here,
we were close, you left
and then you were past and gone.
I haven’t seen your grave in years.
I don’t need to see it to know you’re not there,

for in the haze
and the shadow
I still see you

and sometimes I’m frightened
but more often I’m amazed
that it seems no miracle
but natural as the leaf-smoke of autumn
that you’re everywhere at once.

Age has a way of sharpening your eyes.
Age has a way of letting you see what matters
without clouding your sight
with the need to understand
the immediate reactions of your youth;

in the haze
and the shadow
I still see you

and really, I am comforted
with the fact that I do not know
if you are ghost or delusion,
my mind playing tricks on me
or the binding of our unfinished business
to the season of its interruption;

let someone else decide.
All I know is there are times
(when there is no wind to rattle the dead leaves
that litter the ground, when the sun recalls summer
at the height of day) when I still love you
as I did, and

I see you
through the shadow
through the haze

and know that though winter’s coming,
for this moment we are still warm
and you’re here as if
you’d never passed.

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Simple Needs

A lamb shank,
mint-garnished peas,
rice and cold beer.

I don’t ask for much
in the way of comfort.
Less and less, in fact,

the older I get.
A simple meal,
a simple kiss or two,

Neville Brothers
playing softly
in the den.  A candle,

maybe, just for the
quivering of its light
and its ability to make

a simple room interesting.
Warm, though not too warm,
and long breaks between reports

of the deaths of old friends,
though if they come
they should come regularly to make me regret

I have not stayed in touch,
to make me pick up the phone
and call around;

also, they should come often enough
to offer perspective as well
on my own mortality,

to keep me just anxious enough
to be unsatisfied and aware that I’ve not done
everything I was marked to do.

Oh, and of course — a guitar
close at hand, and someone to sing to
about these simple needs

so that what I feel
does not disappear
with the last guttering of the candle’s flame.

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Young Actors

Young actors
playing others
go home at night
to kiss and drink and sleep
and get up and do it again
maybe with some shock or joy
at their faces appearing in the news;

but old actors
have a harder time of it.
When they’re done playing
they go home too,
but they’ve drunk and kissed
and slept so much already
they’re left with a yearning
only for tomorrow’s script
and to try to learn
what they couldn’t learn
when they were younger,

and they are rarely surprised by the morning news.

It’s not a good thing
or a bad thing.
It’s just the falling away
of distraction

in favor of one repeated question:

what’s next?

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Selling Out

All you want from me
is the traditional big noise
and words that echo our social agreements.

All I want from you
is to have you listen to me,
even if I’m being quiet.

I don’t walk the bar,
I don’t windmill or throw scissor kicks.
It’s been years since I needed to pull those tricks.

You call this “selling out.”
I call this learning
that slogans sell coffee and condoms

but rarely knowledge,
at least of anything deeper
than what’s obvious

and black and white, and now
that I’m gray I’m relentless
in being gray, living gray.

Gray is the sound of a voice
that’s talked too much
for one life but can’t stop,

and I don’t need it but
I’d love it if you’d lend an ear.
Leave the kids their acrobatic life, their easy chants

and simple slang.  I think I’ve got something
to say to the gray out there,
and I’m not going to shout

about how necessary I am,
or how important this is.
I think it’s good, but I leave that to you

to figure out.

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Former Hopeful

He left the minors years ago
with an injury, has a full sleeve
of rust on his throwing arm,
refuses to play
in the company softball games.

On the wall behind his big desk
a black and white photo of himself
stretched out mid-pitch,
obvious bulge
in his cheek
from the chew.

I know for a fact
he still chews.
we have late meetings on projects
and since he trusts me,
he doesn’t hide
the Styrofoam cup
taken from the short stack he keeps
in the bottom left-hand drawer,
cups which
(when we’re done
and headed home)
he carries to his car
to be discarded somewhere
other than company grounds.

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Sunday Morning Coming Down

It happens all the time:

a bad seed cracks
but never sprouts;

a failed hatchling remains
curled and rotten
long after shattering
his shroud;

and a man
at a counter wolfing
eggs and bacon,
staring ahead with red eyes,
thinks he is the same.

He chews meat and swallows toast
and sucks down coffee, cigarettes,
booze, smoke,
curled in a wretched ball.

He would love for someone to bronze him
and make him into a trophy.

Maybe it will happen
next Saturday night.

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