Lamentations of a Quinquagenarian - Poetry from Bachelorhood in My 50's
This series was written during the bachelorhood of my fifties, after a divorce. I had enjoyed great spiritual growth and uplifting experiences during this time, but I felt I needed to create more somber stories for the cathartic release I was still seeking. Being in my fifties, I saw the subject of aging as an irresistible setting for this latest journey into the woes of my soul. I saw opportunities to create images and moods I wouldn’t have found elsewhere. What follows are the results:
My course through life has brought me
Finally to the mirror of my mind’s eye,
That I might see myself—my soul.
And, looking deeper than e’er before,
I see, to my wonder, as if through a window
To the world, a rainy day, the gray gloom
Drizzling through the cold glass
Of the wet window from overcast sky,
Dreary and weary, but dauntless
In its endless make of a sad patter
On the shivering leaves of stolid trees
Looking down on watery ringlets quickly appearing,
Then disappearing at once on paved stone,
Pressed by some forgotten tool,
Drawn by flesh
No longer there.
Oh! forgotten the days when trees
Looked happily up through blue skies,
At flooding light of warmth—And
Laughing children in freedom of heart
Played under their shade,
And love permeated
Ever as thoroughly as the sun, and
The soul flourished, spawned through
The strength of the earth, yet alive,
Never entombed under slab of man-made stone!
When did I arrive here?
How long has it been?
I am ever floating between the memories
Of an eternal, dark past, and formless and
Ever-receding dreams of the future,
With its disembodied hopes of good things
And the imagined shadow of painless Rest.
Thus floating, I cannot get a foothold
To take steps toward my goals, nor even
Toward the peaceful slumber of the grave.
Sounds are muted, vision is dim.
Why the capacity to dream,
But not the power to fulfill such wishes?
Where are the fruits of my intelligence,
The sails of my talents,
Or the wind to fill them?
And what have I done that could be written
On the pages of fifty years?
Carelessly dodged, the words of wisdom
From so long ago!
Lost through time, and even if found,
Vitrified and crumbling—my decayed epitaph
Which came and settled into the ground without me.
I have but one chance.
Why just one chance?
Can I not be like the rain, which
Comes as the moisture that can never be destroyed,
But cycles again between land and sea?—
Or even as the dust of the earth, which,
After swept away, travels on the breeze
Or under foot to return anew?
But onward advance my goals, ahead of my reach,
Like in a dream where I cannot work my legs
Fast enough to move ahead.
Therefore, advance forever forward,
O my dreams! and even the salve of my Rest!
For then I will say, though be it with hollow victory,
That I have achieved that which others
So desperately seek;
The curse of immortality!
What is happiness?
What is love?
If I see happiness, it is only that of others.
If I see love, it is only that manifested
Through their curious actions.
Do I understand love? It comes to me
In the guise of lust and ideal dreams
That can never be,
For fairy tales do not continue—they end
With the setting of the sun, or the closing of a book.
Love has another name that I do not recognize.
It has a vision known only to others. It has
A feeling, an emotion not given to me; or if so,
It has burned brightly, briefly, once
In a segment of memory that is now
Only an ashen dream,
Burned so completely
As to erase its image,
Leaving a singed heart
Which cannot feel,
Yet never ceases
The birds’ song is not music to me;
It is only evidence
That they know what I’ve been denied.
If I do not feel love,
Then why do I feel the loss of love?
And what power the heart!
I’ve seen physical pain,
The loss of limb and of sense.
The weakest of their victims
Did not cry over such torture,
But the strongest have shed tears
Over mere words,
Over lost dreams and lost love!
Dark shadows become solid to surround and arrest me.
I try to look up, but the heart bows down,
And so do I,
And the dead leaves and dusty, broken twigs I know too well.
O, lust of Babylon, that—with odorless light
And delicious fantasies—
Enters the mind with promise of miraculous heights,
But with stealth
Dumps the stinking filth of corruption
Into the rushing and eager blood stream
At the very moment of the denial of the lie!
And thus bloated I am fatigued
And drained of the will to fight.
How is it done? How is it done,
This victory over Babylon?
Where is the magical formula or potion
That would give one deliverance
From this imposing charlatan?
O you magical deliverer,
You quasi-tangible spirit of some
Evasive, complete fruit that would
Fill the soul to overflowing,
Give life to all emotions,
Satiate all the wonderful lusty appetites
Of mind and body—
You evasive entity felt when colors refract silently
Through an angled corner of glass
In darkened room,
Or when hearing a chorus
Of distant, soft, angelic flutings—
Why do you evade my focus, my gaze, my quest?—
For you seem to promise my deliverance
From your counterfeit.
As the poet has said, thy passing,
Though not remembered,
Is truly grieved even by the wind.*
And by the voice of the wind
I am caused again to bow my head down.
How is it done? How is it done?
How, oh, how?
And when is it done?
When, oh when?
* Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel (Published by Simon & Schuster)
I am the destroying angel of the mysteries of the world!
I reach for the sunlight,but it fades at my mere attempt.
I see love, with hope and faith.
I touch them and they turn to dust.
I see cities, and trails which arch the heavens,
Sparkling musical fantasies waiting to sing!
I follow a plan to build them all,
And soon I hold their death in my hand.
The world paints a curious thing;
I stand in the way and watch.
But interaction is force to dissolve,
As my movement sets it melting away.
What dream consummates the vision?
What thought is bought and sold?
The image mocks my failure to live it;
So I will destroy it; in this, I control!
I am the destroying angel
Of the mysteries of the world!
Young at Heart
Fly the sky on the wings of your fancy!
Soar through the air over water and tree.
Then you are come to see in the meadow
The course of a child, running and free.
He runs from you, but you can’t see
His eyes or his mouth; only his back.
He sings! he sings but you cannot hear
His words or why he’s chosen this track.
Wide you swing and gain on him
To see his face, to catch a view.
But magically his course is turned,
And once again he runs from you.
Again and again the child escapes,
Ever turning his back anew.
So, then with voice you call to him,
Calling again ‘til he turns to you.
He turns to you while running still,
And now he lets you gain on him.
Startled, you see to your dismay
The face of a man, with double chin.
Your shock you try your best to hide,
As changing sense changes vision:
What once was song, is now a dirge;
What once was youth, aging tension.
He is not smiling, but limps with pain.
Unfocused eyes reveal the lost.
Meekness tells of sorrows past,
Hardness tells what love has cost.
His eyes meet yours and you see his soul
And now a whole new world opens:
Once again you see his youth—
The best of life in rugged seasons.
He turns; ne’er more you see his face,
Except in dreams of time to come.
And except you gaze deep from the heart,
Never again his face is young.
Continued to Part II:
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