. .Good Morning!
Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings.
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Growing old is not for sissies. – Bette Davis
I have another birthday coming up this week, so I went looking for poems about getting older, but far too many of these poems are just downright depressing! So I culled through them, and picked out two types – really good poetry, and poems that at least made me smile. Only occasionally did they overlap.
by William Shakespeare
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.
“Sonnet 73” from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the Folger Shakespeare Library edition
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon.” He likely wrote 39 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems, although a couple of the works attributed to him may be questionable.
by Billy Collins
The name of the author is the first to go
Followed obediently by the title, the plot,
The heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
Which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
Never even heard of,
As if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
Decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
To a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
And watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
And even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
Something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
The address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
It is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
Not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
Whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
Well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
Who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
To look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
Out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
“Forgetfulness” from Questions About Angels, © 1991 by Billy Collins, University of Pittsburgh Press
Billy Collins (1941 – ) dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, was a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003), and has published many poetry collections, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning and Nine Horses: Poems. It was Questions About Angels, published in 1991, that put him in the literary spotlight. Collins says his poetry is “suburban, it’s domestic, it’s middle class, and it’s sort of unashamedly that.”
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Among the first we learn is good-bye,
your tiny wrist between Dad’s forefinger
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom,
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield.
Then it’s done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, “Bye,
we’re leaving,” and her son stands firm
sobbing, until at last he runs after her,
among shoppers drifting like sharks
who must drag their great hulks
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.
Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map—
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar’s blond torso.
Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light–
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She’s too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.
“First Gestures” from Eve’s Striptease, © 1998 by Julia Kasdorf – University of Pittsburgh Press
Julia Kasdorf (1962 – ) American poet born in Pennsylvania. Author of four poetry collections: Sleeping Preacher (1992), Eve’s Striptease (1998), Poetry in America (2011), and Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields (2018). She is also the co-editor of the anthology, Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn.
Written in a Carefree Mood
by Lu Yu
Old man pushing seventy,
In truth he acts like a little boy,
Whooping with delight when he spies some mountain fruits,
Laughing with joy, tagging after village mummers;
With the others having fun stacking tiles to make a pagoda,
Standing alone staring at his image in the jardinière pool.
Tucked under his arm, a battered book to read,
Just like the time he first set out to school.
“Written in a Carefree Mood” from The Old Man Who Does as He Pleases, translated by Burton Watson – Columbia University Press
Lu Yu (733-804) was a Chines tea master, writer and poet, best known for his monumental book The Classic of Tea.
Growing Old Disgracefully
by Judy Ball
All my life I worried ’bout,
What others thought of me.
I always tried to watch myself,
And act as I should be.
Mind my manners, stand up straight,
And try to be a lady,
But we all knew that in my heart,
I was a little shady.
There was a wild thing lurking there,
Just below the surface,
Aching just to be set free,
And have myself a circus.
Now I’m old and just don’t care,
You get just what you see.
I’ll dress the way I want to dress,
Be what I want to be.
I’ll ride my horse, run with my dogs,
Climb hills and even trees.
If folks don’t like the way I look,
Too bad, cause this is me.
Judy Ball, proud grandma of eleven grandchildren. Born in Florida, but living for over 30 years in Canada.