Tag Archives: aging

Lifelong Learning

Mom asks,
who is Beyonce?

She’s a singer,
I tell her.

Would I
know anything she sings?

No, I don’t 
think so. 

Oh, okay then.
Goes back to dozing

in front of the game show
where she heard the name.

Beyonce was the answer to 
a question. That was

all she needed to know.
All is well. Enough.

Do you think you will ever
know when to say Enough?

To look out the window
and say Enough. To see the news

and say Enough.
To close your eyes

and say Oh, okay then,
plunging deeper into Enough.


Preacher Song

At the crossroads now, moonlight
drenched,  soaked in all its storied
charm and hazard.

I’ve stopped here 
on my way West
after long years in the East.

I never much thought about getting
proper directions before I left;
simply got up and headed toward

what I thought 
would feel like home.
Kept sunset ahead to guide me.

Ending up here seems now
preordained if you can say that
while observing that preacher-ish figure

approaching from the south.
Long way off. Moving faster
than seems possible. Can’t tell

if I know them, if it’s someone
I’ve met in passing, on more
intimate turf, or never before. 

The air smells like I’ve been here
before this. As if
someone like myself

had been here decades
or more ago.  Old music slips 
toward me up the wind:

a song of my fathers, a song
of lost brothers, a song of ruptured love
and sold out family. 

How long until midnight?
It’s a mystery. How long have we both
been walking? It’s a mystery too. 

I just know I’ve been trying
to put words
to those songs for too long

and to find them here means
I’ve somehow
come home again, 

and as I’ve always known home
is not, has never been safe.
But I’m here.

It’s nearly time 
to shake hands
with that preacher 

and find out what will be 
beyond tomorrow’s sunset
when I get there. 


Aging Into The Work

Begin
by switching 
from late night 
frenzy jags 
to mornings
before the coffee 
has finished brewing,
changing
your work wardrobe from
naked or T-shirts and briefs
in bed
to full dress
in whatever you decide 
to see as your office,
refusing to rely
on inspiration in bursts — begin
not carrying a notebook
everywhere and letting
the lines come and go within
as they see fit, trusting
the Work itself will put
those that would matter most
back in your hand when the time
demands it.  Continue like this
for as many years as you have left
to spend on it. It may be few,
it may be many, it may be
none at all and of course 
the Work itself
will continue without you
but when all is done,
take comfort in how
serious you were
about finding your own way
in your fading light.


Trigonometry

You thought your life
was going to be deep,

imagined you’d have thoughts
as large as whales
moving sine-cosine through you
all night long, all day long,
from wake to sleep and after death.

You thought that at this age
bills would pay themselves, 

imagined you’d be soaring now
far above dirty and mundane,
that such small things would be beyond you
as you plunged and rose and plunged again
upon thermals, updrafts; flying upon the fullness
of cycles, the vast majesty of understanding All. 

You never doubted that by this age
throngs would look to you for wisdom,

imagined yourself in whale-speak 
sharing the meaning of tender, sharing the falcons’
long vision, imagined yourself
nodding at the seekers, shrugging when
needed to maintain mystery.

You thought this morning
about all that nonsense,

imagined yourself instead no longer hungry
and cold as you sat in your sad apartment.
The whales no longer passing through you
sine-cosine; you have no sky to fly,
nowhere to go. Deep thoughts
you once hoped for have left you adrift.

Instead you think about your empty shelves,
pretend you recall hearing songs in the ocean;
it seems so far from here
to the top of that last wave
but it’s really no farther now
than it has ever been: how simple it seems now:
shallow or deep, high or low, rich or poor,
hungry or sated:

sine, cosine;
cosine, sine…ah.


Stella

You live
between animals
in a studio apartment
pretending your daughter
is not so far away.

One side
of the room belongs to 
a dumb cat named Cat
who sleeps
for more hours in one day
than you usually muster
over two nights.

The other side of the room
belongs to an alarmingly smart dog
named Toby or Tsunami or
something else beginning
with a T you don’t care
to use or recall
as he never comes for it
which proves he’s smart
as there’s no need to answer
in a room this small. 

Your daughter
lives in New York
and neither calls nor
answers your calls.

You live
between animals
and look from time to time 
at the yellow wall phone
you can’t quite give up
for a mobile device. 

Feed the animals,
sit near the phone.
Don’t bother with the television.

If there’s ever a tsunami for real
they’ll never find you after.
The animals will survive
and go to shelters. 
Your daughter won’t bother 
trying to adopt either one.

You used to have a name,
but why bother with that now?
You were at last just
The Lady Between The Animals.
It’s not an easy one to forget,
but it will happen.


the body is fighting

this body is fighting

i say die
it says no

keeps wanting

it says
no
eat instead
drink some water

it says
ask for 
kiss 
for fuck or

for the sake of argument
ask for life

for seeing it through
(aren’t you
curious?)

i say 
no

in the left side of my big dreams 
there was sunlit order.  in the right side
there was mist and if there was order
i couldn’t see it. why wait to find out 

if it in fact made sense in there? i did
well enough in the time i gave it to get
this far. i did well enough to put to rest
worry for the future: whatever is there

is beyond worry. in the left side
the steps up are straight and narrow
and i can turn around anytime i want.
in the right side i’m not sure if the previous

step remains intact. maybe i can’t go back
without falling into nothing. maybe that’s fine. 
and maybe the next step is missing. maybe
it’s all falling from here. maybe i’m falling now.

everything is a maybe 

to this body being asked
to die

except for one certainty

it keeps wanting

to spite the dreams 
it contains

my body
maintains left side order
maintains right side fog

all i do
between them

waiting 


Apologia

More than once I’ve thought about
a man in his recliner watching football, 
and told myself that it should have been me. 

I should have continued my career,
such as it was, and worked myself to rest
fully funded and mostly healthy in such a chair,

or so it would appear to others.
More than once I’ve lamented
that I took what some would say

was the lazy road and followed
words down another path. 
I could have done it part time

as I did for years and maybe
done more if I hadn’t been so bent
on chasing them where they went

instead of having them come
to where I reclined in comfort.
More than once I’ve mourned

the self I lost the day
I turned in my ID badge 
and walked to my car with a box

of stuff I did not need which felt like
gold I’d mined and wanted to keep
as proof of my having mattered

in one specific place and time. 
I was a fool, of course, then and now.
I had never mattered that much then

and I don’t matter now. If I stop now
in ten years most won’t remember
much of anything I’ve said or done.

It’s fine, really. Did I move 
the earth? No, it moved 
anyway pretty much

as it would have if I’d stayed
in that job. Did they miss me
when I was gone? No, at least

not for long.  Did they miss
the gold I’d taken with me? No.
It was not real, as it turned out. 

As for the time since: did I move the earth
with my words? No. Did they pay back
all I owed? No. Do I get to rest

now that I’ve acknowledged
how small I am? No.
Did I owe you all this work? No.

All I wanted, all I needed
was a recliner and handfuls of love
from those I loved in this life,

then silence in the next. 
I’ve been told it’s golden.
I’ve been told it feels like peace. 


Three Minutes At Twenty-Two

there were three minutes 
in my twenty-second year
when I think I had a decent ass

that might have been
second glanced by anyone
half-seeking such a thing

or such a me
if they’d taken the time
to look past it and see me as me

and not consider my ass
which I did not think much about
back then and had forgotten until today

when the entirety
of my crumbling body 
overruns my thinking

if you ask me now
what I think about 
how others view me

I will shudder
fall to my agonized knees
and as if looking down upon myself

from the heights I reached 
in my twenty-second year
I will not be able to answer 

as this 
is nothing
I ever considered 


Parking

Riding around
old ground
saying

“that’s where
we used to”

and
“I remember
pulling over right there
so we could”

and
“all the times
when we’d stop there
before going home and we’d” 

and
“how about that one night
when we”

and 
starting to say 
something like that again
but then all
is forever changed because
they’ve put a development 
and
the road through the houses
comes out where
there used to be
a little pull-off
where we used to

It’s gone now

Every time
I ride through
this town
full of ghost parking places 
I end up mumbling

“there’s no way
anyone still does that
is there?
do the kids here 
still find places like that
for that?
where does it
happen now?”

then cussing myself
out for
staying too long under
this nagging cloud of
unfinished business
I have yet to
release


One Last Taste

At this end of your life
you should take the cups 
you’ve been offered 
and pour a little out of each
for all your much regretted
lost relationships, all of
your ruptured lifelong
conversations, whether
they died untended or
were killed on purpose
as mercy killing or for spite,
whether they ended
with no explanation 
or were left to die quite
consciously; however they failed,
take the cups you have left
and spill a little for what 
those who vanished offered you
in your shared time.

Tomorrow it will be your cup
lifted to someone else’s lips,
and you would want
to be honored for whatever
you brought to the tables,
bars, and counters
you once shared with them.
As you slip from memory
you’ll hope
they too will savor
one last taste
of how it was when
you were together. 


Philadelphia

I don’t feel that this
is how I should feel.

I feel like a weight bench
has appeared before me
in the street where I am standing 
in front of Philadelphia
City Hall.

I don’t feel that this
is how I should feel.

I feel like wind has blown open
a door and wherever I was
in solid life is now behind me
and this apparatus is trying
to tell me I can’t turn around. 

I don’t feel that this
is how I should feel.

I feel that feeling is unremarkable
and unimportant when you are pressed
to use what’s before you in a setting
you don’t know at all except
from pictures and maybe one trip long ago.

I don’t feel that this
is how I should feel.

I feel nothing beyond
the vague need to strip to the skin
and lie back and begin a workout
I’ve never done in my life and don’t think
I should be doing here. 

I don’t feel that this
is how I should feel.

I feel like denying this is Philadelphia
then wondering why it is Philadelphia
and why the weight bench is red
and who any of this was meant for
as it doesn’t feel like it’s meant for me.

I don’t feel that this
is how I should feel.

I feel like I should embrace
the feeling that this was meant
for someone else and perhaps
I am no longer the person I was
when I was on the other side of the door.

I feel I should change my name and move
to Philadelphia and forget my hometown
and my hometown love and my longing
for desert and mountain and a long
and fruitful life ending in a hometown bed.

I feel like a weight bench in Philadelphia
is all I’m good for now, that I’ve become
a sweaty old man struggling to lift 
things that get heavier and less
balanced as I go, a tin can beside me

with a scrawled sign
beside that that says, “Don’t you
love your brother, good 
people of Philadelphia? Toss me
a penny or two or more.”

I don’t feel like this 
is how I should feel,

but there is the bench and there is
Philadelphia City Hall surrounded by
heedless Philadelphians, 
and what difference does my unease make
when this is apparently all I have left?


Back When

back when
my summer days
started late

back when
in late morning
I’d leave the house
to go into fern-laden woods
on the other side
of the railroad tracks
sometimes (most times)
alone to write and maybe
(later on) smoke pot or perhaps
make out 
with one or more
neighbor girls
(that never happened
no matter how hard I try
to remember that it did)

back when 
summer was a friend
who had my back — 
cover of foliage
and the heat which kept
sensible and prying
adults inside with the AC
while I roamed between
the river and the tracks
thrilling myself
when I found junked cars
clandestine weed farms
(I never touched a leaf
I swear) and now and then hid
from other kids plinking cans
and squirrels with 
borrowed rifles

back when 
I had one beloved companion
the color of light filtered
through solitude
who had no face or known name
who nonetheless held me
as I’ve not been held since

back when I was
differently alone
than I am now

I didn’t know
how good I had it


Birds Feeding In The Street

In the street, 
small birds pick
at something left
from someone’s lunch.

There are 
similar birds on 
feeders here and 
in the neighbor’s yard.

I wish I had 
more solid ground
under me than this
couch provides. 

I wish I was less inclined
to be a spectator 
and had more of the ease
with which these birds

stay in the street,
rise when a vehicle
comes through, return
to their feeding at once.

I’ve become
just another coddled old man
hovering at the window
from behind old walls.

The world exhorts me
to get out,
be part of it,
be not afraid; but

I am afraid. 
I am afraid I’ll become too wild,
soon enough be like the birds
eating from right off the street;

I’m afraid I won’t rise
from feeding when
the car comes through
and will just let it take me.

This is the way of things today,
I tell myself. Either 
lose your mind stuck to the couch
or lose it along with

the rest of your life by
getting out there and being
dirty-sad in the dirty sadness 
of a city street. 

If I die out there
everyone will know at once
that I succumbed to the hell
within. If I die here,

sitting very still,
no one will know for sure
how the last days were for me
and maybe I will go so quietly

that the birds 
will chirp my story when I’m gone:
he watched us from the window.
He did a good job of sitting there

just watching. People 
will make up their own stories
about me, picking at me
as if were posthumous trash

in the street which holds 
something to nourish them.
He saw a lot from the window.
He must have seen something that killed him.


Broken Leg Dance

When its Work is done
a brain will try to dance

Even if it hears nothing 
and has not for some time

Even if it knows nothing 
of what is current among other dancers

Even if its legs are broken
and it appears to be in pain

over its failure to dance what is now
fashionable or at least acceptable

A brain will try to dance
when it has cast aside its Work

even if it knows it will be forced
to go back tomorrow and once again

heave itself into hard labor
No matter how reluctantly it rises

No matter if dancing itself 
led it to this shattering 

a brain will dance after Work is done
even if only for one night

or one second before it becomes dead
lying there with broken legs and its Work

left inevitably as incomplete 
as whatever it was trying to dance


Coal Tar Blues

From age
and diabetes and its
attendant conditions
as well as a long term
mood disorder
and who knows what else,
I’ve fallen into 
a human sort
of slow rust,
almost.

I daily
soak myself
in coal tar
for what’s on
the surface,
my rotten skin,
take tinctures and talk
for what’s wrong
within, disrepair
with unlikely odds
for repair. 

Nothing about this
is temporary or
acute. Chronic
is my name,
now — speak of
conditions,
not illnesses;
talk of status quo or
increase, 
not progress.

Coal tar and skin creams — 
odors of one failure
to treat myself
correctly, or so
I tell myself. Others
say buck up, it’s not 
a fault or a
punishment, you
needn’t club yourself
with that one,
no matter how good it feels
to feel that bad at times.

Indeed, there is a sort of
blessing, a relief 
in the hours after
I step out of the shower
as though
I’ve found a path
to normalcy but then
I lose my way as I start
the day and I tell the others,
you think so? Then
come live in here
and tell me
I’m not right.

See, I’m being
hollowed. I need
something to take up
residency in
my old center, to build
upon the dust falling 
out of me until I’m
gone for good,
which could be soon
or so what’s left of me
assumes, based on
the way the air around me
smells whenever I feel
as good as it ever gets.

Comes a point
when everything done right
is still not enough, and hope
becomes not a right but
a privilege your mind
has never allowed you
to exercise before, and now
is just a way of passing time
before time laughs
and then kills.