Poem About Old Age and Growing Older: Could It Be Me?
When I was in the ninth grade, my class was shown a picture of an old woman, a black and white picture of a woman sitting alone in a drab environment. For a 15 year old, the photo was stark, sad, and unreal. While we wrote down our impressions then, over the years I have revised those original thoughts to reflect the poem shown here.
Could It Be Me?
She walked with a gait that was cautious and tender,
Each step with forethought on a path unkind.
Slowly and steadily, she moved down the alley,
Her hands slightly outstretched to a companionless guide.
A look so forlorn as she groped for the air,
In attempt to balance on legs unsteady and stiff.
Even from the distance, her features were clear—
Rugged and roughened from the bout with time.
The Look in Her Eyes....
She was more than old; she was weathered and worn.
Strands of brittle straw framed a face of tough leather.
Beaten and tired as if she’d gone through
A world of—who knows—and had come out behind.
Did she have children—or had she been married?
Had she been deserted? Or alone all her life?
She looked frail in the wind that gently blew
Litter in gutters and shook her slight frame.
Her life had been hard, undoubtedly, I thought.
Probably harder than most. But then who could know?
I thought of my own—my life, my loss—
Yet how lucky I seemed. Did I have it so bad?
I looked away and back to this solitary soul
On this desolate path....to what and where?
An air of fear I sensed in her.
It gripped me so strong I began to shake.
Was she scared of death? Of dying with noone--?
Of what lay ahead? Or would death befriend her?
Who was I to say? Her hopes, or her fears—
Whatever she felt—not for me to know.
She walked closer to me, and soon we were facing.
Eyes rising, hesitant, we peered at each other.
And in those eyes I saw it—the look so disturbing--
Not sad, not afraid—but hollow and empty.
I greeted her warmly; I wanted to help
To bring some joy to her dreary existence.
We talked for a while. Her eyes shone with--what?
Finally, we parted, and I watched her leave,
Glad we had met, and hoping I helped...
To show someone cared--was that my arrogance?
I shook my head, my heart disbelieving,
Unable to separate her thoughts from my own.
Was it real what I saw in those eyes so revealing?
Was it despair of this life—or impatience for death?
An unexpected encounter—between one near the end
And one entering the pathway of life.
Could it be I was jealous that her journey was ending
And my own still ahead--with pains yet unknown?
As she rounded the corner, my throat tightened.
My eyes couldn’t move from the place where she passed.
Confused and shaken, my heart was racing
As my ordered thoughts were now undone.
The wind gained strength where mine had waned,
Knocking off my cap, flopping on the ground
Here and there, with its own sort of doubts
Looking to settle, free from its torment.
I had to see her again, but for whose sake?
For a poor old lady or just for myself?
© 2011 Victoria Lynn