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Old Age

Soon, when the world
Shakes, like a bowl full
Of jelly, caught beneath the spoon,
Smoother than the clinging croon
Of jazz saxophone;
And the engine 'neath the cowl
Catches fire like a flag unfurled
And tosses its heart to the wind
Then, only then, do we that have sinned
Salute you.

Soon, when the moons lie
Swollen in the evening trees
And your knees creak and joints sway
As you wake up each morning with perception
Grown thin
One more day
And the light envelopes you
In a smoky, warm glow of pearly memory
Centered in layers around the cherished grain
Of self
Trapped iridescent flaw
Surrounded by symmetry;
More precious than evil end
Thou glimmer of future's claw

Until that cusp comes
To shave bare the face of days
Seek ye the acorns found
By the blind squirrel as he scrabbles
Among the discarded leaves, in desperate fight
To preserve the sight that yet lies
Within his yearning heart:
That Hope might grow new eyes again.
But 'ware the cat that stalks in the night
Or the quietus found in the jaws of hound
That slavers around the world-wood tree.
Youth teases the dog within reach, to leap
With effortless grace to safety and chuckles
At its cleverness when pitted against

A pillar of errors
Quietly weeps; no salt can console her
Who once looked back at her youth.
The flames have consumed them
Who once were her friends
And ashes are scattered
Where once flowers grew
And all that once mattered
In the storm of passion's ferment
Is sea-foam long blown from the brew.
The prince's kiss and the plucking of the rose
Whose thorns cling and prick to the blood
The seeding of star-swept plains
The climbing of the mountain
Bearing for burden only stones whose goal
Is long since washed away.
On the peak watch
The passing of day.
Alas! For the towers of truth
Have closed on the soul
Revealing the goal of forever
Snatched moments alone within the steamy rays
Of all-perceiving Eye.

Wasted dreams examine the past
For fault in the Furies' control.
The evil that lay there
Now lies by the road;
The wind with its virtue
Sweeps up the sooty residue
Of fortune's disfavor
And failure's last grace
And all that time spent
As she marched in a space of years
Like days
Through the stone and rubble ways
That led to the last deserted peak

Theater sits and audience sleeps
Two masks like cracked mirrors
Try to shape the stream of time.
The players rebel and nothing fits
The lines that they read
(Oft miscued, summer blunders)
Pass by the stands like peasants
In parochial revue.
Who can feed on misfortune
Or love only loss
Or true test flee, to bell the cat
Or mouse along in rodent misery
To die in a hole
Of old age or poison
Built up in the liver
By time?
Better by far
(The actor declaims)
To arm our misfortune
Sieve our troubles
Go drown to the river
And act out our aims
Than to nightly wait and gently go.
A new script is needed
(Dubbed laughter echoes hollow)
The old does not follow or fit
But the tragic flaw
The comic parody of heroic soliloquy
Is the last page written,
The last line so soon forgotten,
That brings down the gutted house.
This is it.

How finer the plays
We promenade in the night
Filling the emptiness
Requiting the promise of youth
Than the lackluster days
That hollow the hours spent
In regret for our still-born past.
At last the nascent flowers
That bloom the truth from our burdened hearts
Are gentle to walk on
They flavor the air of our inner room
And color the bare walls
With ghosts.
Ah, sweetness that lingers
When unaroused by the bell
That tolls by our bedside.
Fingers still caress the brow
The secret mist of private lands;
We roam the hillside to a lonely dell
A chuckling rill beside us
Down, down
To undress near a warm grey tarn
And float out on its rolling ripples
Sink into its folding waters
Drift alone among the dancing
Spirits that surround us
With whispers of snow
Warm snow.

Breathe we deep its heavy liquor
Pillowed sleep too dear an answer
To our final fears.
Duplicitous sirens cry:
One to rouse us to the outrage
Tubes and needles seen through a veil
Tears implore and violating hands reduce us;
One to call us back through the page of days
Seduce us sweetly on the foamy shore
Lead us, ensorcelled, back to the haunted lands
The poignant fields of innocence
Into the soft haze of misremembered season.
What reason is there to remain?

Polychrome bursts beyond description
Shatter the glass into jagged shards;
Each rebounds the eye with pain
And fills the ear with nameless sounds.
Who whimpers and groans so?
Could it be me? Oh God, no. No.
Naked nerves scream into nothing at all
With jolts of coded current
Animal spasms seize the doll
And beat it blindly against the wall.


Awake yet again in aching molasses
No movement disturbs the white
Ceiling where one spider sits.
Raped by a catheter
Razed by the blade
Ruled by the needled spark

The old screen turns off now,
The scene slowly spirals down the drain
A bubble popping to a speck of light
That, in the dark, must remain.

next up previous contents
Next: The Child Up: Life and Death Previous: Life and Death   Contents
Robert G. Brown 2007-03-21