Tag Archives: aging

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

Ode To The Back Seat Of Our First Car

where we once kept our hope
for the obvious to happen
a place of longing sometimes fulfilled
more often disappointed
revised into lies

where we tried to hide empties
when blue lights came flashing
under mounds of fast food bags
old T-shirts almost gone to rags
a towel or two or more

where we now keep no deep nostalgia or regret
for what we lost or did not lose
back there behind the driver’s seat
where today there are groceries or kids
or rideshare customers for the critical second job

of all the things we put on the back seat
when we were too young
to put them anywhere else 
the only thing we long to hold again
is the idea that anything can happen there

as we travel
mundane routes
to and from 
mundane places 
which when we were young

were still years or decades away 
we try to hold to the idea
that possibility is behind us
but still within reach
with only a bit of a stretch

The Original Goof

I’m a game piece. Have been
forever, all the livelong day.
Body designed by compulsive Goof,
I move into spaces for moments
at a time, hurt or enjoy the time,
then move on.

I assume it’s not my place
to understand the Game,
for I don’t know
how to win,
how to play to a draw,
how to lose.

Someone else, 
the original Goof, gets
to know that. They will
shove me into a box and
walk away satisfied or not;
I’ll be in the dark even then.

If it sounds like
I’m ceding my autonomy,
bemoaning my anatomy,

know that no part of me
indulges in hagiography
for myself or others. I did

hard damage here and own my 
long decay — but something put me
here and twisted me this way;

original Goof chasing laughs
or the joy of play, and as I said
I’m thinking I’m the game piece

who doesn’t get to know
how the Game ends,
or even how it does end.

Rotten old songs stuck
in my head, all the livelong day.

Their baggage’s loaded in 
and I’m embarrassed that it won’t go away.

Lyrics in the background,
the Game and the moves right up front. 

I still see the Board as a playroom
where I’m too clumsy to use the toys

as intended. It hurts now more than it
pleases, but as I was never meant 

to be either Winner or Loser,
it does not matter.

Original Goof or whoever’s holding it,
won’t you blow

your horn? Fee fi fiddly,
pay me what I’m owed.  I’ve been

your gandy dancer long enough. 
I’m ready to take that bow.

High School Reunion

Faces as fresh as memories of
a mistake made in front of a crowd.

Grip as firm as the pommel
on a saddle or a sword.

A smile fast as a bleeding heart
tumbles to the floor.

Friendly — what’s friendly?
Do we embrace now,

punch each other’s shoulders?
What do we do now, old buddy?

We’ve not seen each other
since high school, or a year or two later

at Billy’s Pub, or the Station Tavern;
who knows, some other local bar. Are we still

drunk on that old beer?  Are we still 
afraid to admit our entire relationship

was alphabetical, based on twelve years’
of classroom seating charts? That we

don’t know each other, really?
That we never did?

Let it be shoulders then. Then let us turn, 
in pain, separately back to the bar.

Missing The Pine

The pine we used to use
for second base in the vacant lot
across the street from where I was raised

is long gone, the lot having been
transformed back then 
by a split level

that was new, then decayed,
now refurbished to 
the beauty it originally displayed,

which for me is none.
I still resent how
the builders took that tree down

before I developed
enough strength and courage
to get farther than the first branch.

All that’s left: the unclimbable
third base birches, looking 
not a day older than they did

fifty years ago; those bent trees and 
my anger that somehow
whenever I come back

this is the first thing and nearly
the only thing I recall
about a place I once called home.


So little new 
to say
once you realize
that you have stopped
being a person and
transformed into
a footpath
now that you have
reached a certain age,
that people
either follow you
or wear you out
or stray from you;

you are so carved
into your surroundings
that you cannot help 
but stay in your groove, 
ground into the landscape
until the last person
who remembers you 
as a person has passed,
and that will be all,

but still you keep
doing this Work

because there’s always a chance 
of you becoming one path
to that which is still out there,
beyond your view, a destination
everlasting and pure enough
that even if no one ever
says your name again 
you will have helped,
you will have mattered.


Why I am unimaginable
these days —

appearing whole to myself in no mirrors,
neither literal nor figurative;

merely an apparition when in person,
an uncertain wisp to some, dismissed

entirely by others.
All I can think of, really,

is the discomfort I feel
in various parts of the body,

the structure I used to feel
was a grand little house.

The creaking these days
from the corners and the eaves

drowns out any clear being
in the decay. Somehow I’m still here

but undiscoverable right now.
Disintegration; not showing as whole.


I’ve been the birch, the
definition of bent. Look me
up and see how weight 
falls from me. It is 
how I’ve been able to hold
myself as lovely despite
my pock-scarred
inconvenient bark. Pure
arc, an icon of resilience
when seen from afar.

I’ve been the oak, 
stubborn unhollowed
pillar. Despite the rain
of acorns denting what’s below,
seen as somehow
admirable for my strength
until I fall and crush others,
or until someone else
falls and is broken
while trying to pass
over what I have left behind
year after year. 

I should have been
sawgrass or perhaps
wild oats, a purslane
closer to the soil. Some
weed I cannot name now,
less obvious, more or less
scarce or extinct. I still
would have been more alive
in your imagination, but 
fixed and unavailable to be
downgraded. Less metaphor
than good memory. Beloved
in a static way.


Moved to dance
in the hallway of 
my childhood home
as it is empty now
and the echoes of
feet on the floor
will disturb no one

Trying to choose
a beat to work
from among
the memories of all
the songs I tried
to listen to here
but was told to turn down

People who know me today
can’t hear the caterwauling
that goes on within for my denied past
Symphony of what I never had
when I lived here
If they did they’d understand
but perhaps if they did they’d flee

Moved to dance
but unable to
Frozen in remembrance 
of all that glory unused
I settle myself back into stillness
as it is easier than trying
to choose