Tag Archives: aging

the body is fighting

this body is fighting

i say die
it says no

keeps wanting

it says
eat instead
drink some water

it says
ask for 
for fuck or

for the sake of argument
ask for life

for seeing it through
(aren’t you

i say 

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



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 


Riding around
old ground

“that’s where
we used to”

“I remember
pulling over right there
so we could”

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

“how about that one night
when we”

starting to say 
something like that again
but then all
is forever changed because
they’ve put a development 
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

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. 


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,

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
not illnesses;
talk of status quo or
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. 

A Star, A Particular Star

As a child,
I loved a star,
a particular star.
Did not know
its name, just
where it hung
in the sky all spring
and how it moved
over time and 
I would look for it
there, then
over there. Now
I cannot find it 
anywhere. Do not
even know where to
look. Forgot directions
and orientation
and when it
shows itself off
to best effect. 

I am old and live
in the city now
where there is
so much light at night
it is not worth trying
to find my star or
any other. Pollution,
light pollution,
they call it. My brain
is smogged 
night and day and 
if I could find that star
it might help
or it might not but
what I miss most
is seeking it across 
the sky, finding it
among the others.

Pointless now
to even try;
instead I sit by
looking to the flow
of myself into mess, hoping
to see something there
(glint of sunlight on a 
foul wave, tumbling bit
of trash caught
in an eddy)
to help me recall
how to find 
a star, a particular star.

Lying Down

While bending to plant myself
on the back corner of the kitchen floor
in order to clean the litter box
I watch myself lose the thread
and the balance
and now I’m lying down.

Becoming aware again,
face to face with the shit
this way, I can’t imagine
getting up again and no one
is home to help me change my mind
about lying down.

Maybe it will all hit the papers — the part 
about being alone, the part about how many days
had passed and then some lines about
who they want to think I was before it happened. 
No one, really, should stop to care about such things. 
In the end, like everyone, I’m caught lying down.

There isn’t a lot for them to say 
beyond that, so it’s your turn. Pretend there’s
something profound in the way
I will be found: smiling, you can
say — or maybe not. Eyes open,
or maybe not. Lying down, definitely.

I may hear you speak of this
from wherever I am, or I won’t 
and even the idea that I still will be who I was
is likely just more of the same shit
I’m looking at right now from the comfort
of the cold ragged linoleum where I’m lying down.

This, though: there are things down here
I never saw before this moment. I see
long assumed truths and falsehoods
swept up in light and changing. Even the shit’s
changing, as is the light itself around me. I will not
call it beautiful yet. Right now, I’m just lying down.

A Broken Mug

Breaking the mug
left behind when a friend moved
and left me their favorite mug

in order
to practice unattachment and 
travel light

hurt. I was attached to the person
but soon enough more so to the mug
I drank coffee from every day all day

for close to eight years
till Tuesday or maybe Monday,
who knows now, it’s been a fog

of worry since then about
this loss and feeling I have failed
a friendship, although we haven’t

spoken much over the years since
he moved. I’m sure there’s
more to say about this — when

have I ever had less to say
about such foolishness? My hand’s 
rotten nerves let go when I could

not. I swept up the pieces at once
and they’re gone now
with this week’s trash. No one got 

hurt. I trust he’s doing ok regardless.
I have a new daily mug
I don’t like as much, but I’ll adapt,

I’m sure. I will drink a lot of coffee
from this until such time
as I break it, then repeat

with another mug or myself
and then we shall see what hurts,
if anything, when the last one is gone. 

What Scratch?

If you have noticed the scratch across my face
that I gave myself with my right thumb nail
grown extra long for fingerpicking a guitar

the scratch I gave myself tearing the CPAP mask
from my face while trying to get out of bed
swiftly enough not to pee myself first

the scratch across the cheek I gave myself
trying to be quick and quiet and not disturb
my love sleeping next to me as I rose

the scratch not administered by either cat
who’d been on the bed with us and who then rose
to demand a two in the morning feeding

the self made wound light evidence of how often
this happens now, diabetes and other
wear and tear having made it all inevitable

this cut line across the pressed lines made by the straps
on the mask that keeps me breathing all night long
in spite of my best unconscious efforts in opposition

the cut made by my long term devotion
to the instrument I wish I’d played better
and harder and longer 

the scratch I barely feel as after the bathroom I stop briefly
in the living room to look at the laptop and the clock
and hesitate while trying to choose between sleep and poem

If you can see the scratch
the answer is 
yes it hurts

Out On The Boards

What you used to tell yourself
was no more than a quirk 
or a tic to be borne
with dignity

in spite of the shame
it engendered
regardless of whatever play
you were in

is now a wide tear
in the backdrop 
wherever you go
whatever you do

The nasty old brick wall behind it
with years of grafitti
about you and your shame 
can be seen from any angle 

and it’s time to decide
if you are going to brazen it out
then bow to the awful reviews
or go on pretending no one can see

by reminding yourself
they keep coming to the show
The whole run is sold out and
There’s no one who can take your place

One gesture after another
toward your grandiose legacy
Drawing attention to the fact
that the crowd is thinning and 

it’s not like it used to be 
out here on the boards
They’re whispering as they filter out
to the street and leave you behind