Tag Archives: aging

Wounds

A small, angry wound: short slit
on the side of my left thumb
from a clumsy test of the new edge
of an old Swiss Army knife.
It didn’t bleed at all
but somehow still hurts:
no more damage 
than a paper cut
but it’s hot and bothered
and more than bothersome.
The type of injury
you leave alone
and pretend it will heal
in short order

even though nothing on me
heals in short order anymore;
I ought to have known
this was going to happen,
having long been aware 
of how fragile the sugars
in my blood have rendered me
in late middle age. Knee
that will not stabilize;
hands that cannot grip
or sense; feet which imagine
against all other evidence
that they are always on fire,
and eyes that are beginning
to dim and twitch 
from dawn to dark.

I wish there was more of value
to say here: a deep lesson about mortality
or endurance, a metaphor for 
the state of the world, an insight
to lay my fears to rest;
all I’ve got is an inflamed thumb
and a list of chronic infractions against
my romantic fantasy
of having ever been
truly healthy and intact,
and I’m tired of looking at them.

Instead, I figure out a way
to type around them. I figure out a way
to walk while burning. I figure out
how the way things feel to me now
when I touch them with these new hands,
and I try to decide how I’ll manage
when I find myself, at some point,
in terminal dark.


Filling A Vaccuum

I spoke with the ancestors this morning before getting out of bed
and they told me I was doing exactly as well as expected

which would have been comforting if I did not know for a fact
that they were a pack of inveterate liars while they were alive

and the stats on the prophecies and opinions they’d made since their deaths
were ragged and imprecise and full of as much fable as before

But it felt good for a moment to think I was fulfilling a destiny
even if that may or may not be true

as perhaps my destiny is to be lied to by authorities living or dead
and wander and stumble over foundational untruths till I fall

and end up prostrate and wounded under the thumb of the dead
until they lift me up and stand me upright supported by more lies

They shall raise me up and give me a sword and point me
at other suckers who have been betrayed into infantry

and we will charge and gut and kill and be killed
thus taking our place among the exalted company

of liars grown fat upon the rewards gained by winking at the lied-to
becoming someone else’s revered ancestors full of untruth

Tomorrow morning I swear I will look them in the eyes
when they come before dawn whispering of my destiny

and I will say
I don’t believe you

and when they turn from me I will be adrift and lost
which some will say should be cause for joy at my freedom

but I will say nothing of joy as I will be straining into the silence
listening in vain for something else

which will ring of better truth even if it is not better truth
and which offers a path to a destiny I can live up to

no matter how small or venal
that fate might be


Not Again

They again have asked me
to return to the persona
I once lived behind
and recite the words
I used to swear by

but I can’t go back. Not because
I’m appalled at what I used to be,
but because I can’t put on
that costume again: can’t
wear that mask that doesn’t fit

my face that’s changed enough
that I believe the bones within
would push through and break
the old facade; the combination
of who I was and who I am

would render the antique words 
so suspect and superficial 
that folks would turn away
laughing or shaking their heads.
They would be right to do so:

I can barely think
of my face back then
or read the words
and mouth them in my head
without wanting to do the same.


Middle

I scribbled, I scratched, I scrambled;
sought toeholds in extended
metaphors, did average work
that was never enough to lift me
up the face of my chosen cliff.

So I’ve ended up clinging.
Do you see me up here?
I thought not. I’m tiny.
If I fall I won’t make much
of a splash. If I succeed

I’ll have to face the climb
down. Is there a trail
to follow after you get there?
Or do you jump and hope to float
back to the valley in one piece?

Once there you look around
for another nasty ascent.
Some peak worthy of both your fear
and your need to not only
live on the edge, but to keep so close to it

that you lose your sense of danger;
one day the most ridiculous
and simple reach fails you, and you 
die in the middle of the big climb.
So they tell me, anyway. But now

I’m losing grip
and I’m suddenly aware
that the fall I thought
would surely slay is small. 
I’ll surely live

if I hit the ground, 
might not even break a bone.
I made this whole grand adventure up.

I’m caught at last between a rock
and a self-delusion.
But I can’t let go. Not yet.


Legendary Animal

I once was
a legendary animal
without reservation. Could
savage a body
to a near-mythic level,
offer fierce
teeth to my enemies,
feed on the weak
till I burst open;
you don’t know
who I used to be

once upon a time,
back before I woke up
my inner humanity
and turned away from that

so long ago
that although I need
my animal back
to face what is ahead,
i cannot call it up;

my left hand
can’t feel anymore,
the right one
can’t close enough
to grip a hilt or throat.
I admit to atrophy
of the fighting heart.
I confess 
to aged weakness
and, at last, 
to fear.

I want what I once was,
long to have the teeth
and claws I once had,
but I am old, and sick;
and now can feel other animals
closing in upon my bed,
can smell their drool and 
my own sweat and piss —

let them come
by dark or night.

I will die but I swear
they will not walk away
unchanged.


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?