Tag Archives: aging

Traitors

Revised version of “My Body The Traitor”

Ahead of me I see my body,
moving faster and faster.
I’m one clumsy step behind,
maybe two or three steps;

we’re slowing as we move tandem
toward an inevitable destination.
It makes no sense
to see myself as not being 

my body, people say.
I say they don’t know.
They can’t see how far I am
from being in there, how

my whole intention is stymied
by the distance between
what the Self wants and needs to do
and what the Body will allow.

This betrayal tears at me,
rips me, pushes me sobbing
into my pillow. I don’t want to go
where the Body is going,

don’t want to put
head and heart
into that mess. Don’t want
to die on the Body’s terms.

I find myself longing to betray the Body.
Let the Self decide the route
and the speed limit.
Drag the Body kicking to the end

to fall apart when the Self is done.
Not before, not one day
or second before. Let the Self rejoin
the Body, then leave the Body behind;

betrayed, but at peace or at least
no longer in pain, no longer
in failing, no longer in free fall
to the hard face of the road.


My Body The Traitor

Up ahead of me
my body the traitor
is moving faster
and faster while I’m

a clumsy step
behind, maybe two
or three steps
more days than not;

slower and slower
toward an inevitable
destination. Some days
my body’s every step hooks

on a stone in the road, puts
a big toe in a crack, breaking
its back; I’m closing the distance
though in fact I don’t want to go

where my body is going, 
don’t want to slow and settle
head and heart into that 
jalopy for that junkyard lap.

If I could I’d pull the body back
to where I am and say, rest.
Take it out of gear
and rest.  Let’s step aside

from the chase; let’s park and idle
before the end of the road
and talk about what we’ve seen
and loved and feared and passed

and forgotten; then,
betrayal forgiven, 
once we’ve gotten enough
out of that talk, then

let me strap in
and we can go
together, coasting
to a full stop.


My Lesser Self

In a small retreat
from all my clutter
I chose to leave
my best self at home
and take my lesser self
to a rock I climbed often
as a child.

While my best self
took care of business and
swept my dusty floors
the weaker self and I sat
on cold granite and did not care
how dirty we became
as we scuffed our knees 
climbing down

to step in stinking black mud,
stumbling along the banks
of the river once full of 
live dyes from the mills
that still holds toxins enough
that no one would dare drink 
or eat from there, 
though there were
fishers who must have hoped
for catch and release;

in the distance I could see
my childhood home, 
a place I would not take
my lesser self to see:
no need, that’s where
we both were born

and then it was time
to go home, put my lesser self
to bed and let it sleep
without dreams of all this
while my better self and I
sat together and pretended
none of that day had happened.


Suppose

Suppose you looked hard at your life, your existence, your being, the fact of your physical presence on the planet; looked at it and saw that you, the watered-down remnant of the combination of Native and Italian ancestry, were the site and the desired product of the Genocide.

Suppose you were raised with the words “never forget you’re not White” hammered into you and yet you ended up looking in the mirror at that which was undeniably White-passing and privileged and saw, to your eyes and upbringing, the image of a great Evil.

Suppose you could never shake the constant whisper of “you shouldn’t exist” in your ear.

Suppose that as you aged and decayed and body parts began to betray you and your abilities, you found it increasingly wearying simply to get up and go, yet more and more you understood how important it was to get up and go.

Suppose you lived in the incipient days of a Fascist takeover spearheaded by a man whose hatred of people like you was becoming more and more palpable at the moment you were least equipped to confront it.

Suppose people kept assuming you were ready and able for the War you knew was coming and did not see you as anything more than their expectations of you.

Suppose this all came together for you on a hot summer morning in a pool of sweat in a soaked bed sheet on a couch in the kitchen staring out the front window at an empty bird feeder two empty feeders and birds staring back at you.

Would you go outside and water the garden?


The Physical

There were adaptations you needed
and ones you wanted

and others you never dreamed
you’d have to make

Out of your body you come
into a new space

to look back at
the form you’ve always known

You startle yourself 
How much you’ve changed

How is it possible
that you feel so new and brave
in spite of the growing volume
of the pestering voice insisting  
that all your changes
have not stopped time

You look at the proof of their insistence
on display 
in your body there below you
All that work and all your changes 
and there you are anyway

You choose the present

May as well settle back into
the physical and see
where this may go


Vine Borer

Was any of the work
or expense worth it
for this:

plants destroyed
before the full harvest
by something foreseeable
and preventable?

Staring down
at what was salvaged
in the moment
and knowing it is also
likely doomed as this
has happened before,

all my Work appears to me
like this pile of mush
and cankers, yet I keep 
planting again and again.

It’s a reflex now:

every morning, a reflex;
each seed, a reflex;
any tearing down, a reflex;
recriminations, a reflex;
rationalizations, a reflex;

detached leg still twitching;
one bloom holding on 

as dead tissues 
fall slack.


As Happy As A Dead Person

As happy as
a dead person

(specifically, that one
emerging from

the pile of leaves
in the corner lot).

That one whose face
has just been exposed

by this teensy tiny wind
that popped up just after dawn. 

The neighbors on either side
must either have known it was there

or have been improbably oblivious,
as that huge smile

took a while
to come to the surface

from the look of
the rest of the face,

all white and naked
bone. Setting speculation

on why it’s here
and how it went unseen

this long aside, 
can’t help thinking that

as happy
as it looks now to me

as it smiles and peers
black-holed out

of the oak and maple
clutter in the lot (which is

now I see also full
of trash bags and other

hopefully neutral humps
in the underbrush),

as happy as it appears
to me taking 

my plodding wobble 
of a morning walk

past here as I do
every morning,

that’s a level of happy
I could aspire to,

and after all these months
of unsteady and hurt,

I finally don’t care how
I might get there.


Wrong Answers Only

Here is a mirror
I look at daily.
First thing in the morning,
last thing at night;

I asked it all 
my easy questions
long ago,
when I did not mind
the truth;

now, though,
I whisper my worst questions
first thing in the morning
and last thing at night,
exhorting it to offer

“wrong answers only”

before turning my back on it,
as I know it cannot lie.


An Estimate

This is
an estimate
of size:

to say
as large as or 
as wide as

then to
bring in
a vast noun

such as
sun or ocean or
human love

and say this
is as large as
that

This is 
an estimate
of intensity:

to say 
razor or
hammer or vise

then to
speak of
a body part

and offer
a contradiction
such as

a chest squeezed
softly until agony
became a bed

This is how
to speak
of pain:

to say one feels
as would
a red giant star

warming slowly
to full scorch
just as one might describe

how it feels when
a vise is tightened
quarter turn at

a time until
jaws meet
through pinched skin

as thick
screams
ensue

to offer comparisons
until one’s head 
cannot hold them

this is how
to write about
a sickness

that will never
let go
until one reaches

a place
beyond

comparisons:

an estimate of After


Edge Of The Bed

My body is trying
to kick me out.

Each morning
I must sit for a moment
on the edge of the bed
and take inventory
of what hurts and how

in case the body has found
new vulnerability, or pushed
a known one to the verge 
of breaking.

My body is trying
to put me out.

I check to see
where the locks are strongest,
where they are most tested.

My body is trying
to throw me out.

Which door is weakest
and what is it exactly
that is trying so hard

to push me through it
into whatever

is out there to take me
after the body is done
holding me?

From here
on the edge of the bed in the dark
before full light
I can feel 
my body winning,

pain growing and spreading
wherever it seizes me

to pull me closer
to ejection.

Then what?
More to the point:

once evicted from the body,
will I be me
without that home?

Will the pain stop?


Riddle

Originally posted 9-15-2016.

Here is a riddle

A clerk at a butcher shop
stands five feet ten inches tall
and wears size 13 sneakers

What does he weigh?

Meat
He weighs meat  

Ha ha
good one
we’re supposed to say and
it’s true as far as it goes but

it doesn’t take into account 
the possibility 
that the butcher might also sell
various deli items

and the clerk
might weigh out piles of slices 
of provolone into 
white waxed paper 
sealed with brown tape labels 
with name and price handwritten 
in black grease pencil
or that said clerk might also weigh
heaps of potato salad
into plastic tubs
from a white enamel case 
with huge sliding doors

the way Michael Morelli did
when I was a kid
on my family’s Saturday morning trips
to his dad’s market in Milford
I remember his old man 
would hand slices of cheese
over the counter to me with a wink
when my mom wasn’t looking

The riddle also
doesn’t take into account
that the same clerk might also 
at some point 
have to weigh
a decision set before him

whether to maintain 
this family business
or sell the building to a barber
upon his father’s death
so he might go on 
and do other things

It skips entirely
the possibility
that the clerk might also 
continue to weigh
the consequences of that decision
every time he passes
the now empty and decrepit
storefront that long ago
went from being
a butcher shop
to a barber shop
to an antique shop
to a computer repair shop
to an empty shop
to a broken hole 
on a broken block 
in a broken downtown

The clerk goes home
Weighs himself
Sighs
Stares into his bathroom mirror
Ssits in the dark
in his clean modern kitchen
at the butcher block island

Ha ha
Good one
he says

This riddle is endlessly retold
for new audiences

more and more of whom
have never seen
a butcher shop
white paper
brown tape
grease pencil

have never smelled
mingled sawdust and blood

never felt the cold blast of air
from the walk-in
where full quarters of beef
hang behind glass
behind the counter

So now
here’s a new riddle

A writer on a couch with a laptop
five foot eight when standing
wears a size ten shoe
at 59 is shocked to realize
he can still remember
the name of a butcher
and his son
who once owned a shop
that’s been gone
for most of his lifetime
and at how much 
this memory weighs

When does this all get funny

 


Yes And No

Used to feel 
yes, yes;
now it’s more 
no, no, no;

used to be 
young, young —
and now?
Not so.

Had harsh words,
once, for
age and space;
agreed to disagree.

I lie here now,
choking on dust
from a life
I used to feel.

Did you, like me,
assume the best
of how your time 
would flow,

only to sharpen
and shatter within
when it moved 
toward stop from go?

My cocky shell
now broken up.
It pricks me,
and I bleed.

No matter that
my blood’s grown thin;
what little I have,
I need.

I bind my wounds
as best I can,
step back toward
yes and yes;

although the pull
toward no and no
is strong,
I will resist.


My Books, My Guitars, My Body, My Shadow

Here are my books.
They have mattered
through most of my time;
right now, I’m not sure how
they continue to fit into me.

Here are guitars, drums,
cuatros, basses, more;
they have mattered as much
as the books, although now
they hang and sit dusty and ask
why they are still here.

The downward slide
of my aging hands and eyes
sweeps me away from
how I have self-defined.
I can’t make things work
as they always have worked.

It terrifies me daily
that I wake up
with no sense 
of what will be gone in daylight
that I could see and grip
in the dark of the night before.

Here is my body.
The shadow behind it isn’t talking right now,
but no book or song can keep it silent forever. 

This has always been true,
but at dawn each day now
I hear it clearing its throat.
I didn’t read about this in any book
and the music I swear
I can hear now and then

isn’t anything I want to learn to play.


Grime Under Your Nails

What matters in the end
is not that you believe
but that you act.

I’ve seen such good people swallowed
by this, folks who thought
belief was enough to sustain them.

Gentle hands, clasped in prayer
with not a callus to be found
upon them; all that uplift

and not a thing on earth
reflected in line or scar
upon those perfect hands.

What matters in the end: 
did you get dirty before the dirt
came down upon you?

What matters in the middle
and not long after the beginning,
too: did you step to it

when challenged? Did you learn 
that prayer flows best
over skinned knuckles?

Or did you close out
in sad peace on the couch,
cold insomniac in shorts

with nothing on TV,
just your self-control
to hold you here:

you tell yourself
you just can’t be taken yet, 
you’ve been so good. But

what matters in the end
is a scratch in the dirt
you can call your work,

grime on the knee,
the shine off your shoes,
something dark under your nails.


59 Looming

sound of boots
pulled from stinking mud

distance 
from center
of a swamp
to hard ground beyond it

a map you won’t consult
because it may reveal territory 

road trip
you won’t take
for fear of dying
en route

distance 
to action through words

speech
you won’t make
because it contains
promises

a room 
you won’t leave in daylight

a door
you won’t open
you won’t even unlock
in case you have to walk though

age
you never asked to achieve

frontier
built from demands
that you justify yourself
before you go