Old Age

The Last Word

She had nothing more to say to him,
Or, so she thought.

A final soliloquy to decorate
The last exit?

A tired spring blossoming,
Ripped of its energy
By a fierce, aging winter
With its suffocating folds of snow
Matched the weakness of her resolve
To say one last goodbye.

Departures, she finally decided,
Better left to silence,
Avoiding the ache of closure
That never arrives
With the last word.

 

 

 

 

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An Aging God

Grace, a gift the unworthy
From an unknown lover,
Bartering as young gods always do
For more than respect,
Rejecting the cordiality
Of statesmen and underpaid doormen.

Who is this gift-giver, this once bronze god
Fermented into an old man’s unsteadiness,
Weak ankles, aching knee-caps, a lazy mouth?

Generosity cannot shuttle out of the arms
Of aging gods smoking cigars, one unsteady hand
Guiding a wheeled walker through the halls
Of the soundless stalks of the unrepentant.

 

 

 

 

 

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William Pitt, My Blind Grandfather

He was blind, his eyes suffocated
Into silence,
In his grief, imagining,
His body’s stark opposition to
The innocent flow
Of children in bow ties
And full pink skirts,
Or an aging oak’s
Craggy shreds of skin
Once seen by the
Boy he used to be,
Eyes wide open,
Squinting against
An orgy of sun
His pupils knew
Could not absorb.

But now, in old age,
His eyes cannot remember
What they saw yesterday,
Austere, naked emptiness,
Burglarized by time,
Bargaining with his body
To hear more than
He could endure

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Senior Special

She didn’t know much
About the guy.
His name was Steve,
He drove a taxi at night,
Owned two German shepherds,
Used to work at a plant
That made cardboard boxes,

“It closed in August,”
He later told her,
“The asshole owner
Lost interest,
Bought a condo in Tampa,
A red 2012 Mercedes
With real leather seats,
Left his wife of
Forty years.”

She met Steve on
A Christian dating
Website for seniors.
Their first date
Was in late September
At the local VFW post,
Bingo-and-spaghetti
Friday night special.

“Does the spaghetti
Come with salad?”
He texted her.

“I don’t think so,”
She texted back
“Not on their Website.”

“No problem. Can we
Meet there right at 5:00?
My eyesight sucks
After 7″

“Sounds good,”
She wrote.

They both arrived promptly.
A couple’s interlude, they decided,
Better than the solitude
Of the evening news
And stale headlines.

 

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Six of One

Actor you’ve always been,
Wheel-chairing your way
Into your impoverished look,
Pants, with empty pockets,
Thin, liver-spotted hands,
Dry feet, hair, coarse
As a horse rope,
Eyes duller than
A kitchen knife.

You will recall
The stone bridge
Over the village creek
Where I chose
To feel the fever
You said started
As soon as you
Walked out the door
Of your summer cottage
To meet me.

Every August.

“It was never enough,
Like a bowl full of fruit,
When all the kids were home,”
You said.

But I never told you
It was sufficient,
Like today, when
I made another choice
To see you briefly
And leave you
To over-smiling nurses
And the sad odor of urine.

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Margret

He’s done this before on his methodical days,
Pills aligned on the cupboard,
Morning talk shows, the chattering bells
Of actors hawking one more film
Over  toast and curled eggs.

What had he forgotten, again,
In the hollow cave of his dreams?
The rent, the electric, cable?
No, something else, a sliver event
Impaled in his memory.

Tom’s wake?
No, that was in January,
The fifteenth, to be exact,
When he ran out of toilet paper
And Miracle Whip.

Maybe Margret, inevitable Margret,
Who lived downstairs and showered
Every day at five-thirty in the morning,
Returning for a guest visit at eight,
To wander through her forgotten crevices
And turtle-shell toe nails.

Margret. Damn. Margret.
What was it? A movie? Lunch?
He paused. Now he remembered.
Vomiting Margret, sun-bald,
Pencil-thin, frail as his mother’s voice,
Ten-o’clock-appointment Margret
In her cabaret wig and slim high heels.

He tied his shoes.

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My Fear, My Lover

Stretched bodies
On hospital gurneys,
Fear in the air,
With outspread wings,
Curved talons,
Gliding through
The willing sky,
Its startled prey
Once more
A skin-soft lover,
Aching, in real time,
To be fondled,
Wet-tongued
Into sweet surrender.

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My Enemy, My Friend

How should I react to those, I believe, don’t like me? Especially, the corporate, four-testicle, country-club guys who love to be master of their fates and everybody else’s?

I read, today, Pema Chödrön’s phrase, “the sweet spot,” giving me some clue about the need to live on the mountain of kindness, no matter how craggy. Maybe even to accept my enemy’s perception of me as too cocky, too self-assured, too sarcastic, too intellectual.

Where can I retrieve that soft spot from when I feel judged? Too often, I pull back. I start to invent an image of my enemy as a cold, detached, cruelly confident man, who beats his wife; says “fuck off” to his kids at least once a day; argues with a Mercedes Benz salesman to include, in the base price of his new car, a flat screen on the backs of the driver and passenger seats. As an added resentment, I will probably hold him responsible for the 2008 Great Recession. Continue reading

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Pleasure or More Pain?

In my dotage, I have been taking to television more than I should these days. I have also found myself staring into space for no particular reason and for longer periods of time.

My brother once used an expression, “I was just wondering….” when he was about to broach a family issue that he knew I would not respond well to. He never liked conflict.

I often rationalize my tv watching by convincing myself that my mind goes into mush after dinner. Or I’ve been thinking all day and I “just need to escape.” Or, my favorite: “I want to see what American culture is all about.”

I also defend my three hours of nightly conscious sedation in front of the tv as my entrance into the “wondering” stage of my ongoing intellectual development (My brother would be proud to know that I take “wondering” seriously)

So, my friends I have been wondering lately: Continue reading

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The Controlling Caretaker

“No problem. How much do you need to borrow?”

This is not an atypical response of a caretaker. Someone asks the caretaker for money. The caretaker responds simply and to the point. And the response is positive. Caretakers are like that.

Suspend your disbelief for a few seconds, however, and listen to how another type of caretaker, the self-aware, over-the-top caretaker, might describe themselves: Continue reading

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