Tag Archives: aging

Now I Am Stone

Once I could embrace
everything that had a pulse,
and since everything did, I drew 
everything in and held it
until I pulsed with it.

From plain old dirt to brand new seedlings.
From slippery sweet words of love to
harsh talk in the tongue of ravens,
those slow wrenching croaks.
From brilliant concept to laughing dismissal:

if it could move, and everything did,
I moved to grasp it and take its essence
into my own arrhythmic dance.
I would tell the tale of it, and then
I would run off chasing the next wild pulse. 

I am so far removed from pulse now
that all I know of it is what I recall and the words,
the dance of how it used to feel means so little
I may as well say nothing as I fade. Now, I am stone.
Nothing moves me. Instead, I cleave in place.


Cat Food Piracy

Little Kitty
eats almost all
of Big Kitty’s food
before I have a chance 
to fill and put down her own plate
which I always do first
and not with my back turned 
to the two of them
except for this morning 
when I forgot. 

Big Kitty 
sits there staring at me
while the piracy
is taking place. 

I always cringe
when my soft brain fails me,
ashamed of what I see as
my cruelty,
intended or not.

“I’m sorry, so sorry,”
I say as I put Little Kitty’s
plate full of her preferred
mush before Big Kitty,
which she tucks into
as if nothing much
has happened.

I feel
more upset than is warranted,
I guess. My forgetfulness, 
more and more common these days,
leads to these small harms
no one much cares about,
but I gather them and 
hoard them in secret places
until I am rich with self-blame.

The cats make do.
I make mistakes, then coffee.

Mistakes
before coffee,

no one as bothered
by my failures as I am,

and me piling up words
about all of it:

a pirate stealing meaning
from a sinking ship.


Coda: An Old Poet Shuts The Door

I have far less time ahead of me
than behind me. Such a relief. 

I don’t need to mess up 
whatever time I have left
trying to pretend I care much about
new birth and evolution.

I’ve seen enough of both
to understand that they lead,
inevitably, to people like me.

You call me out and call me old
and set in my ways and
part of the problem and —

listen: you don’t live in here yet,
and I hope you won’t for a while.

You can’t understand 
all the new things
I’m already learning
against my will, so step back

and let me go on in my choice
of armor. Poor as it is, 
thin and already pierced as it is,
it’s how I manage my terror
of inevitable forgetting
and accelerating decay.

Put simply: when I am wearing this
I don’t care about you being on my lawn.
Stay there. Camp there.
Enjoy it or tear it up
and plant figs or whatever; you choose.

But don’t think for a minute
about trying to enter my house. In here
there’s not much danger from me, true,
but there’s plenty to fear
and I can assure you
it’s nothing
you are ready to see.


Drowning

I fight hard 
against drowning in nostalgia,

but the way she stood 
in late daylight!

The weight of seeing her 
standing in that light

pressed my body down,
was for once stronger than 

what I handle around her
most of the time, 

and I couldn’t breathe
as easily (or as much in denial)

as I usually can; 
time and age caught me 

and there I was sputtering 
to find some fresh truth to tell

instead of muttering, as I did,
“I’ve always loved you in that,”

as if I was some once-famous crooner
in some formerly decent lounge 

repeating some Bennett Sinatra cliche,  
as if I had ever been in that debonair league

and the sound of my voice would be enough
to bring it all rushing back to both of us —

but it’s the next morning
and I’m still there, still sputtering, 

the remembered voice in my head
choking on something wet and salty 

as I slip under 
the surface to stay.


An Old Poet Rides The Hurricane Toward Death

When I was young, ascending,
high on this Work,
I believed I would one day
be old and still flying. 

This deep into
my aging, though,
I am dismayed
and earthbound,

tethered to the heavy stone
of Work Already Done
because living’s become a windstorm
and I am lightweight and weak.

Here I am full of folly,
thinking the Work So Far
no doubt will save me; 
robbed of the foresight to see the paradox:

how much
still within me
could die with me
if I do not let go.

Something new in the Work
is screaming for birth,
but I dare not let it out.
I do not know how

to let it break it free
of my decay
without dying myself
when it escapes.

Then again, maybe
the moment of my death,
when the Work bursts free
of my shell-shocked, brittle frame,

will be the first moment
the Work will exist on its own.
Isn’t that enough,
you ask?

I whisper,“no, it is not,”
but if I have this right,
no one will hear that over 
the roar of the Work’s ascent.


Pop Culture

I can’t keep up. I can’t keep up. I can’t 
keep up. I’m losing the ability to talk to anyone else.
There’s too much to navigate. Too much to 
know. I dare not get it wrong for fear of being
laughed at, ostracized.  I can’t keep up. I can’t
breathe in that atmosphere. I’m suffocating under
the movie talk. Who are all these characters? How does
a franchise differ from a series? Is this the one
with the dog or the one with the Sword Eagle, or
are those the same thing? I can’t keep up or 
even try. There are bands playing songs 
that sound old and new at once and I can’t decide
if I should like them out loud or keep silent. None of this
was designed for me. I’m not supposed to know it exists.
I’m supposed to have a bitter vocabulary about all of it.
I’m supposed to have a lawn all are supposed to avoid. 
I’m supposed to love or hate but I can’t even recognize. I can’t keep 
up with any of you. You are so far into the deeps of it 
I’m afraid to follow. I can’t hold a narrative thread longer
than a minute these days and couldn’t hold onto a lifeline
thrown to me if I was drowning in all this. I am drowning in all this.
I can’t tell who I am out here without a reference point and there are none here
that you don’t already hold like a stronghold. Like a home base
in tag. Like a ball in a game of keep away. I can’t keep up,
I’m stupid. I can’t keep up, I’m lazy. I can’t keep up, I’m old
and it all reminds me of how little substance there is to me now
for so many people to hang onto. Everything I’ve lost is out there somewhere. 
It’s been swept out of my hands and I can’t keep up the search.


Effloresence

complications in the country 
my blood and the nerves of the hand
have led me

to distrust my senses
and be flush with anger
perpetually

others think I should
let this flow into
my art and thus be cured

jackass thoughts
if my poems were ever therapeutic
I’d have never gotten to this point

think of them instead
as efflorescence on the hide
of a flimsy house of rotten brick

that I have shaken off
and let fall outside the house
you think it’s beautiful there on the ground

but the house is still
rotten and I am still
sick in this country

where I am trying to nurse
my syrupy blood and my dead nerves
to something like an ending all can stomach

I gave up on storybook happy
a long time ago and nothing I write
could change that

An Old Poet Contemplates The Family Business

1.
Your family gladly tucks you into
the bed you grew up in
when you are sick, sick as
possible, even if you are
impossibly sick —
better still, in fact, if it is
an illness that is best left
undescribed in the refined company
they claim to have kept;
a disease of inches and spew
that will keep others guessing
long after you pass. But
do not dare to be healthy
if you desire their love. Do not
imagine that their embrace,
even in your worst moments,
is love at all.

2.
When you die do not allow
a physicist to speak at your funeral
of the undead nature
of your being. They know all that;
they are counting on it. Instead
I recommend an engineer, a
locomotive driver; someone who can speak
of how long it takes a train to stop
from full speed, how much force
its impact delivers; someone
to point out that the track you were on
only ever went one way and
looking back over the narrow rails
of where you were during your life
tells you little about the landscape around them,
the views that broke your heart,
the places you longed to visit
without them in tow.

3.
Understand that even after hearing that,
the family will never sell
your sickbed. Instead they’ll make
a museum of your room, keep it
unclean and sigh when they sell tickets
to anyone who comes by. 


An Old Poet Shrugs It Off

Ask the complications in your journey for their reasons,
or slip aside to an easier path; it will not matter.
It has come to pass that you do not have enough time left
to understand how the world truly works.

You will instead assign blame or glory to God,
humble yourself before natural law,
skin yourself naked
to defend the science of your success and failure; 

no matter. You are wrong
in some ways, right in others, and you will never
be able to bet on learning the answer and have it pay out.
You are going to have to let the questions

ride their own wild horses over the flat plains of your future,
your mountainous past looming over them, your canyoned regrets
all around them, your mystery oceans somewhere beyond all.
It will not matter in the time you have left

whether or not you ever solve for the final, perfect explanation
of your passage. You are going to stand alone at the end
with your only choices a resigned shrug of acceptance
or a bitter shrug of defiance. It will not matter which you choose.


Through The Hot Ash Of The World

I find myself
walking unwillingly
(as always,
as I was born to do,
as I have since day one) 
with the common version
of the devil
through the hot ash 
of his world, sucking in
the fragrance
of his sudden irrelevance
as the structure he supported
for so long is 
ironically brought down
by people’s actions 
in support of him.

I find myself
ecstatically afloat within
on the knowledge that 
in the long run
this demon only holds
illusion

and all over the globe
less crudely rendered visions 
of him and his Adversary
are getting up after
their long nap,
cracking their knuckles,
and turning to each other
in symbiotic fashion and friendship
to resume their lives
with a hearty,

“Now then…where were we?”

The common version of the devil
looks at all the ruin
of what was done 
in his name
and mutters, “I’m 
fucked now, aren’t I?”
I respond,

“Buck up,
bud. I hear your partner’s
coming up from 
the Harrowing shortly.
Maybe the two of you
can go grab a seat on
a mountain top somewhere
and talk yourself into 
something like
retirement. You’ve
certainly earned it.”


An Old Poet Skips Yet Another Open Reading

It’s a joy to watch myself
disappearing at last
from spaces I once felt
I needed to dominate.
Truly, I wanted to vanish
every time I showed up
but the best I could do
was be central,
larger than life,
and false,
so everyone looked at
my illusion
and not at me.

Now I am
old enough and voluntarily
diminished,
so far beneath these people
who never look down
that I can be both
invisible and more real
than I ever have been before
as I burrow away
from expectations and
reputation into the places
where I can do the most
good, or damage,
or good damage, praying
(in an uncharitably fulfilling way)
that they may they never know
what hit them, what tunneled
below them, what changed
the ground that no longer
holds any of us well.


Done With

the broken arm of lady justice
the evened-out rage of alleged allies

my own agreement with those
who urge agreeability over gunfire

Done with

the stink of my confusion over who I truly am
the longing to reconcile all my parts

the ornery spirit that then seizes my hands
and pushes them into this sodden mess of art

the damnation that adheres to them
when I pull them out again and try to simply live

Done with

the notion that living could yet be simple
the sunsets and sunrises that try to say there is hope

the hope that will not touch me as I wish to be touched
the touch that hope offers that will not do to calm me

this whole curse of a hopeless body
that stumbles over everything

the time I’ve lost recovering from stumbles
trying to right myself on the grand wrong path

the mistaken faith of others that
such an implacable path leads anywhere worthy

Done with

the days of staring at my inadequate garage
the garage itself as public tell of where I fell from grace

shame and anger and guilt and insomniac self judgement
over my blind acceptance of lady justice’s sullied grip upon me

the days behind the days ahead and the days between the cracks
in the mirror I have in front of me at all times

the legacies of all who put me here
my own ease in how I have let them matter

Done with

the compulsion to say all this and still claim citizenship
in a place where I was never meant to be

Done with

opening days always with a sneer
closing days always with a sob


Hawks and Vultures

Overhead, one bird of prey.
Most likely redtail but surely a hawk
surmised from shape and behavior,
but in truth its identity for me is uncertain
from this angle.

Not a vulture,
of course; those are obvious
from below by the fingered wings,
the circles tightening and lowering.
But otherwise,
no true clue.

I should know this.
Once upon a time, I did
or thought I did. I spent more time
outdoors, from predawn
to deep into the night;
I looked up more often. I was confident
every time I pronounced my
identification of the shapes above.

I was, I’m sure, as wrong
as often as I was right
back then. Am I smarter now
that I just shake my head and say,

“I have no sense of truth
when faced with this, other than
the truth that I am simply thrilled
to see it out my front window
and am relieved to know
that is no vulture out there circling me,
at least not one I can see.”


Readiness

With no regret for how I have been refined
by the decline of who I long thought I was
into this realization of what I truly am.

With no regard for what others may think of me
in my next stage — whether they pity me or break free
of me, whether they care for or studiously avoid me.

With no clear choice as to how I must plod through
the remainder of this current stage as it becomes
a bog sucking at my steps, begging me to stop, rest, and rot.

With no revelation in the transformation as it unfurls me
into some flag for others to marvel at or fear, the borders
of my territory becoming clear though little within is obvious.

With no usable personal history to back me up as I puzzle through
to whatever is next, and no proven sense of what might be next
as those who might know and pass this way cannot speak my tongue.

With everything I have said being true,
I once again come to the window in the morning
and, as always, raise the blinds to see the sun.


A Tub of Eels

Behind a small head of smoke
on a Friday night, taking care
of business, keeping it real, tight
and clean, at the same time weeping
at all these near-exhausted cliches
which so perfectly summed him up
without one ounce of novelty needed
to make them more precise;
how did it happen
that he had become
so easy to describe?

He’d stopped trying,
he guessed. It didn’t feel
at all that way to him,
he felt so tired
from what he’d thought
was strenuous work to maintain
his freshness,
yet here he was:

it had to be a clerical error.
It had to be a mistake in the math.
It had to be in the calculations
that decided what was effort and
what was just getting by.

Behind a small head of smoke
on a Friday night, baseball on the
television, words slipping
around themselves
like a tub of eels, the way
they always have. Taking care of
business, the business
of herding eels; looking for
the outlets they use for escape —

and still he’s so tired
of himself. So tired and stale.
He’s been doing this
for longer than the cliches
have existed. They were cut
to fit him, tailored to his form;
they fit too well to just throw away
no matter how worn they all were.