Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Old






Old

When I was a girl
I raced my lines
            over the paper,
                                      words skipped
                                                           like stones across
                                                                       the aqua vita of the page

in a most provocative way.
Now, of course I'm old and
write quatrains that rhyme


or at the very least
free verse in numbered lines,
serious in an unserious world.


Old.


Oh there are benefits.
You can smile at many more things 
that over time 

have proved
to be ridiculous
like yourself.

You can go to the hiking 
trail in the park and 
walk backwards, waving


your arms like a windmill
and feel 
no embarrassment.


Or have your dinner
of buttered toast and 
lightly scrambled

eggs at four o'clock
because you can.
All is measuring out, so


that the hard part about
getting old isn’t the ache,
the dizzy, the suddenly 

       
exhausted 
moment standing in a void,
the knife breaking in the bone,


but the ceasing
to care about things
that once were important

such as being hip,
and what you
look like.



The new jokes don’t seem as reliable
as the old. The new people seem
a consciously constructed alien race



and the cold comes up
from the very bottom of you
the bottom of all being.



Warmth pools tiny in the center, shrinking;
the fingers are stiff with ice
for marrow

and the heart is just 
another abandoned thing
raddled with years and miles


the whole rusty as winter bones
the fox leaves for a child in spring to uncover 
with dreadful curiosity


jumping
                                         back
                           startling at a
                                                       sound;
a sharp crackle,
something in the air


the fire of laughter
the smell of smoke

the shadow of a melody
faint and distant 
as a falling star


then into the pocket with it 
and going on home
before the darkness falls.






October 2011


Posted For   OpenLinkNight   at dVerse Poets Pub


Process Notes: I haven't played around with lines like this for many years but over the last few weeks I've been reading poetry before bed from people who do and have been corrupted. Oh well.

aqua vita, or aqua vitae, Latin for 'water of life'  "..is an archaic name for a concentrated aqueous solution of ethanol. The term was in wide use during the Middle Ages, although its origin is undoubtedly much earlier having been used by Saint Patrick and his fellow monks to refer to both the alcohol and the waters of baptism..." ~wikipedia




Header image: Ghost Car in Big Bend, 
Big Bend National Park, Texas by joy ann jones, 1986




62 comments:

  1. I. love. this. Wow, this has to be one of the most perfect poems about aging everever. You really do study the human condition and know yourself, and have this wonderful thing that maybe you, like I, thought you possessed in your 20s but in actuality it is another of those things that comes to us later.....wisdom.

    Yup, this one has been a real surprise to me!
    but the ceasing
    to care about things
    that once were important

    such as being hip,
    and what you
    look like.

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  2. I really love this too and feel that the form fits the content beautifully well. It's a fine thing to be able to carry a star in one's pocket. Yes, this is the wonder of aging, and so many things I share with you in this litany. Thank goodness fallen stars are both cold and warm, whole.

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  3. It's gorgeous. And you're right. I really don't care about 'stuff' like I used to.

    When I am an old woman I shall wear purple...

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  4. This is wistful and wry, bleached like field bones of life's hardest affect ... It's almost bemused, which I guess is part of "ceasing to care." Funny that what is most difficult about aging is that little matters any more. But maybe it's just that the heart has given up the fight on things meant for earlier parts of the journey, coming to hold different things precious, older things (like a child writing poems), or that a well-constructed quatrain (up there with, perhaps, a decent bowel movement), or finding a simple Thing and taking it home "before darkness falls." Great to see you unscroll into constructions like this. Reminds me a bit of Charles Wright. it allows the tight thought to skip across the aqua vitae. As one who isn't all that far behind you, I appreciate the scouting report. - Brendan

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  5. pshaw, you are not old...so stop that now...do old people write about chopping people up and putting them in boxes...ok maybe we should not go back there...your words do skip and there is beauty to be had in every age, and trials as well...its the aching i am not looking forward to...proved to be ridiculous like yourself...well i figured that one out already...maybe i am getting old...dang...

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  6. @Lydia--thanks so much for your kind and enthusiastic comment. This isn't meant to be a sad poem, as you see, any more than I feel life is meant to be sad, no matter what happens. Glad you enjoyed it

    @brian--no a lot of me isn't old--I chop off the oldest parts, like Brendan says, it's only a flesh wound. But nobody gets out of here alive, you know, or even in one piece. ;-)

    @Ruth: Thanks, friend. You are an example of carrying a star in the pocket every day.

    @M/AJ: I love that poem!

    @B: You got me laughing over the...shall we say as you do, vowel movement part. This was a very somber poem at first and it made me tired, so I did unscroll it and try to put a better, more playful and also more real, spin on it. But then, some of us like to play with bones. AFA the scouting report,carpe diem. The decade you're in still has all the possibilities of youth, tempered with greatly improved judgment. So gather ye rosebuds, and/or bones, as ye may. ;-)

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  7. The best thing about aging is the 10% 'Senior Discount' that I get at ALL Tim Horton's!!!

    You need to ask Java Dave's if they offer one...:-)

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  8. I know it's not supposed to be sad but I'm an emotional lightweight and so I'm sorry, but I cried. I feel like anything I said here would be ridiculous; what do I know? I'm 37. The poem is wonderful, clever, and immaculately constructed. Why did you never learn 'true womanhood' so I could find those embroidered hankies lying around the castle? Guess I'll have to settle for Kleenex at my place. You never cease to amaze with your poetry.

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  9. Sorry, Anna. I'm going to have to try to remember how to crochet for you. ;-) But the trials of age are no worse than all the others we pass through to become ourselves, and put in our pockets. I think what is saddest is thinking how much more we once expected from life, from ourselves. Perhaps years, like snow, bring a weight of numbness to make living with it all finally less and less painful.
    Read AJ's linked poem and it will cheer you up, promise.

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  10. You are not old, Joy, you are still a spring chicken. But I dont think I have ever read a poem I identified with more than this one, especially the toast and eggs at four oclock:) I so loved every word and line of this poem. It warms my heart. And the ending? Wow. Fantastic writing.

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  11. Beautifully sad, in the manner that will accept no pity and leaves you with a smile in the end. Your words skip with the joy of a child and the wisdom to make them dance along the way as well.

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  12. I love, love, love this!!!!!! Awesome :)

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  13. This is lyrical and lovely, and profound. I love the line "All is measuring out". Your "the heart is just another / abandoned thing" makes my breath catch. Perfectly and beautifully concluded.

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  14. hedge this is an awesome poem...and you are so young at heart and your writing is fresh like well water...just saying...and if we ever meet i wanna go hiking with you in the park and walk backwards, waving hands like windmills and just have fun..this sounds AWESOME..!!!

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  15. I like this too (though it strays from your "poetic voice" somewhat. Reminds me of Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude - I wanted to grow old, eccentric and amazing as she was. I think you and I together should walk backwards to Switzerland for Claudia, up the Alps, laughing all the way! These words are just right for how the unimportant slips away! (My daughter married a man whose last name is Old - the whole family is Old for always Ha!)

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  16. Its good to grow old, and to be a child at the same time, before the darkness falls.

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  17. Inspiring! I love the energy of those leaping lines. Makes me want to run out and bag a falling star. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful poem with all of us as we grow (old).

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  18. My favorite part:

    You can smile at many more things
    that over time

    have proved
    to be ridiculous
    like yourself.

    I'm practicing at ratcheting up the crotchetiness and laughing in its crinkled face - oh, I'm going to be good at it. Hope I can do it someday with your grace. Delightful poem!

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  19. @Mark: Way to go. It's a major consolation.

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  20. I loved this, the way your opening words ran like the girl, and then the shifting verses, lovely gentle humour too, the serious and the not taking too seriously anything, unless it really is serious..

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  21. I love how you have set this is out...especially that first line. Wonderfully done. Sad, funny, wistful all at once..there ARE some advantages to getting old.. a bus pass for one, as well as not caring what you look like ;) ...but another stage in life we all go through...Beautiful & poignant

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  22. Really enjoyed the read. What you're sorting out is natural, but age is just a number- ok that's a cliche, but the point underneath it is valid, we are how old we feel. Me, I'll be 37 in a couple of weeks and I feel like I'm going on 90 so I think there's most certainly something to that adage. I've been reading a lot of philosophical and psychological books lately, as I used to read this stuff for kicks way back when and it's weird that you're discussing aging here as the one I just grabbed yesterday off the shelf was a book that deal with Erikson and the passages I happened to scrawl about dealt exactly with the stage of aging. Just found this link a bit fated and thought I'd pass it along. By the way I happen to like the way you wrote this, different from your other work, indeed, but corrupted never:) Thanks.

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  23. I think you've captured the best part about getting old is the 'not caring' so much anymore about what other people's opinions of us are. If we don't keep up with fashion/music/trends, so what.
    Sometimes I like the age I am now because I know so much more of how to actually 'live' a good life now, instead of existing in a non existent 'perfect' one.
    A lovely read.

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  24. Bah only as old as one feels and love the humor sprinkled through out. At least when one is old they can get away with not doing anything by simply saying "I'm too old for this ****" haha

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  25. As I hung with this it got stronger and stronger! Great poem. I started feeling old as I read about being old.

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  26. Ah,the wisdom of the aged, paid with blissful ignorance of youth; a merry blend . . . depending where you are when you consider it.

    There is beauty in the bud, more of it in the bloom.

    I like your poem very much.

    Cheers!

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  27. I thoroughly LOVED this ... why? Well, first it is quite a lovely poem. Second ... I live it daily! ;)

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  28. Things that over time have proved to be ridiculous, like yourself...I would love this just for that line, and the one about having whatever for dinner, whenever, cos you can.

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  29. perfect
    so very true
    you've said it all
    WHat can I say
    but follow this beautiful flow
    right
    to left
    Loved it!!!

    Yes, I might add
    Getting old has its pros and cons
    but it's good to get close to the darkness after all....
    not worth going back to
    youth

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  30. can I be honest with you....all that you've written here...I so look forward to! I want to run down the hiking trail backwards, arms just a swinging and not give a damn about what anyone thinks. I want to eat my eggs at four o'clock. As I age, I'm getting better ;) I loved how you picked us up and put us right on that trail, laughing with you...not at! There is SO very much spoken here, and between the lines...couldn't pick a favorite one if you paid me, they are all awesome!

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  31. Great work on the structure of your words.

    I can relate to your words.. how true it rings. But you know what, I see more pros of getting older and wiser. You get to the point, where you don't care really what others have to say ~

    Nice share ~

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  32. I love the way your words move across the page/screen and I love the way your thoughts move as well.

    I'm looking forward to ceasing to care so much about things that don't need so much caring about.

    Thank you for your wonderful words and the way you play with and craft them.

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  33. Your words here skip like a stone across the water and you speak well of the the mixed burden and blessing of aging. What a journey it is.

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  34. This is absolutely amazing, though I must say, it cannot be autobiographical for you are not old! Now, if we are talking about being crazy and not caring...last week I ran backwards to encourage the pup on a busy street...age? nope, just a nutter.

    "the shadow of a melody
    faint and distant
    as a falling star"
    sigh, one of your many lovely stanzas on this creative write, the skipping across the page was pure brilliance ~

    (btw, had to stop mid-read to chuckle at your creepy hedge, fab!!)

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  35. I love how you played with the lines... so restricted. It seems to me as I read this as if you don't know if you are old at all. A child in a new form perhaps. If that is the case, please come have pretend tea. We'll sit near the dunes sipping sugar water and I'll have Advil of course. Kneeling always makes my knees ache.

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  36. I like this poem a lot. I find it comforting. And I agree with it -- because I do feel better about myself now than I did 10 years ago. I don't really care about what people think about how I look or dress, and I do what I like in my free time. I do think that as I get older, I might feel more free rather than feel like I have to answer to things and probably be more certain about some things, and some things would probably not bother me as much. I like the playfulness expresed in the poem, older doesn't mean boring. The world could be new as the younger ones amaze or shock us I guess. :D

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  37. Well thank God you didn't talk about Senior Specials like 3/4 lb. of pastrami on rye in a restaurant at 3p.m. where all you hear are 200 coronary arteries slamming shut. This is a gorgeous piece..honest and beautifully constructed! Thanks for sharing!

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  38. Amen to all. Nothing I could say could add to all the wonderful comments here or improve upon the universality of your poem.

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  39. Ha-ha, I loved this part,

    "You can go to the hiking
    trail in the park and
    walk backwards, waving


    your arms like a windmill
    and feel
    no embarrassment."

    And, not just that part, but the whole thing was much fun. I do hope that age is only a state of mind. With every year that passes, I always wonder when I'll feel like an adult. It hasn't come yet. Maybe that's a good thing :)

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  40. I'm going to show this to my children tomorrow. Wonderful.

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  41. this is one of the best poems on aging I have ever read and this coming from someone who usually writes in a way that made me think you were in your thirties, tops.

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  42. i like the way your words skip over the page. beautiful work!

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  43. I love how the verse skips lithely around the poignant subject matter. A wonderful flowing, melodious poem with an ending that lingers long.

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  44. Wonderful. This really changes pace and tone mid-way through yet you manage to accommodate all of that. (Must be experience!)

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  45. Is age the last taboo? My God you've blown it away in your windmilling arms.. I found great joy in your words.. and freedom...

    I guess we all take what we're ready to take..
    An outstanding poem.. love your structural journeys and mappings.. and the wisdom you wear lightly..

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  46. Thanks so much, everyone for all the very kind words--I'm glad so many of you enjoyed this--it was fun to write after I decided what the hell. ;-)

    Had an early night last night but getting ready to return your visits as my morning coffee kicks in.

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  47. Skipped like stones...beautifully repped here, in the form and flow of the work. Leave it to you to show us how important and effective the visual construction of a work can be, not just its depth and internal delivery. Age - you've caught it well, in a voice universal - and tidbits of humor throughout to keep the entertainment there. Splendid work!

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  48. I have read many poems about growing old of late, but none has struck at my heart with such fervour as this one. Phenomenal in concept and execution.

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  49. 'walk backwards, waving
    your arms like a windmill
    and feel
    no embarrassment.'
    and that buttered toast at four in the morning ~
    loved moving with your thoughts across the page ~
    yes, so much letting go that was once valued ~
    and then the unexpected that falling star ?(and I know I could have read this differently ~ symbolic of that which once was)
    and 'pocketed' that gem of insight ~
    and wandered home ~ so many levels this spoke to me Joy ~ enjoyed on them all ~
    ((Hug))
    Lib x x

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  50. "The new people seem
    a consciously constructed alien race
    and the cold comes up
    from the very bottom of you"

    That really struck gold Joy.... That is so true, somewhere along the line aging takes me apart from the old and from the new..... a bit alienated from the breath of life, the part that always felt so alive, so natural, once the player of life now just the player's dad, beginning to let myself feel comfortable with the routine of the safe bets, like early dinners and rhyming quatrains, all the while avoiding the gambles of true flare in life.... Aging is not as I always imagined it, it is so much deeper than just feeling the aches and pains and slowing down..... Your words go a lot further towards truly explaining it than I ever could....

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  51. I can't begin to tell you how much I related to this. Isn't it weird how we can feel so young inside and yet our bodies keep reminding us it just isn't so. The photos feel to me like "I've been there." Feel like NV or parts of CA. I love it when a poet pops out of their comfort zone and does something different...especially when the results turn out like this.

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  52. I really like this voice...not as cryptic as your other one--and thus easy for a simpleton like me to assimilate the first time through.

    Yeah, what's all this about global warming? When you get older,it feels like global cooling, so I was finally driven to get me some long underwear in preparation for the winter ahead...and this is Arizona!!! (Hmmm...wonder if I should model it for my blog.)

    But old? That's just a number...or more accurately, a mind set. Inside every older person, there's a younger person saying WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

    And though your photo is from 1986, my intuition tells me you've still retained some of that hotness to bolster you during the coming months.

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  53. @Timo: If you only knew. ;-) And I agree, most days I don't even think about being old--I stopped most of my developmental processes, especially mentally, many years back--but sometimes it just jumps out from behind some normal activity and surprises the hell out of me.

    Oh, and I am waiting to see you modeling your no doubt state of the art and most stylish long handles, with baited breath.

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  54. I want to tuck this in my pocket and read it over and over whenever being a grown-up becomes such an unpleasant state. This is amazing... incredible.

    Beth

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  55. amazing and I can not add any other comment that has not been said before me simple wonderful and amazing
    http://gatelesspassage.com/2011/10/18/farewell-my-three-legged-friend/

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  56. the shadow of a melody
    faint and distant
    as a falling star
    I think the best thing about getting older is that you have more memories to draw on...they sometimes bubble up to the surface and you discover them in that pocket like forgotten money. You let go of some things and others become clearer, brighter. The ache in the bones...not so fond of that :)
    I loved the irreverence - a great perspective!

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  57. wow. so wistfully sad in its end, but such amazing imagery and images... your descriptions are pure gold. And I also think the back-and-forth of the formatting here really works. This is a beautiful piece.

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  58. Absolutely diggin' these words Hedge, the composition was perfectly suited and I felt a connection to it from the first skip on the surface. Wonderfully penned! ~ Rose

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  59. I very much enjoyed this piece. My eyes and mind kept following along, I was pulled right in. Really lovely.

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  60. Many many thanks to all who've stopped by and left their feedback. Thank you for reading and sharing your impressions.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg