Sunday, February 8, 2015

More geezer poetry

A few months back, I reconsidered an old book of mine, The Floating Candles (1982).  I did not think all that badly of what I read in it, yet I had this odd impulse to take some of the poems and revise them as filtered through the three-decades plus of experience I've had since then. As a matter of fact, I have done just that, though I doubt anyone interested would be able to discern the original lurking behind the newer work.

The following poem was motivated in part by reflection on my vague curiosity as to what such "translations" would look like. 

A matter perhaps related: I so love being a grandparent that I'm beginning to wonder whether I can ever write another poem without at least some oblique mention of those beloved children. At all events, here we go:

                     Waking Late

My wife of three decades is at work
already.  Retired, I have time to consider
the smell of her cheek when she came indoors
from this morning’s chill. Can there be a heaven?
If so, it will hang in the air, that odor.
I’m not alone.

I have dear friends of a certain age
who scan the notices of death
like me, first thing, in the local paper,
comparing the age of the vanished with theirs.
We reckon the years we likely have left.
“A good, full life”–

that’s the cliché for those gone at 80.
I’m 72. I guess I’d expect
in heaven to hear babblings from our youngest of five
grandchildren, the constantly smiling Ruthie,
seven months old, and the wise-guy remarks
of her big sister Ivy,

the insouciant ones of her twin brother Creston.
Who’s afraid of Big Bad Death?
Not I. It’s what I’ll leave that hurts me,
including just now the best two dogs
we’ve owned, however we loved the rest.
It’s 20 below,

male pointer and female retriever nestle
by the reddened woodstove, tight together.
Outside, pine siskins jostle the feeder
and juncos peck their spills on snow.
We can see, in such clear and brilliant weather,
all the way to the mountains,

the rugged Whites beyond the river.
My wife and I love walking along
that totem flow on this side from New Hampshire.
Yesterday, after thaw and freeze,
the streambed’s ice chunks slapped back the sun
like gigantic gems.

I’ve had this late urge to go back and revise
my poems from an earlier time. Who failed
to be a little naïve when young?
There was so much I couldn’t imagine back then.
I had scarcely dreamed the oldest grandchild,
Cora, raspy

of voice, sharp of humor, her four-year-old brother
Arthur, who loves to tie me to chairs.
I tell myself now: Look up, out the window.
It’s a Monday, blunt cold, in February,
8 a.m. in the Year of Our Lord

when beleaguered deer are forced to keep moving
for fear of freezing if they pause too long,
when a sleek doe tiptoes down our drive,
her ten-month-old twin offspring behind her–
three silhouettes against whited lawn.
It’s been a hard winter,

with more to come, but they look so alive.


  1. "... Who failed / to be a little naïve when young?" Who indeed? For me, it's the definition of "when young" that kicks me. I had always thought "young" would be one's twenties, but I find at 54 that it's in constant motion, always "about five years ago"! But I like this idea of revisiting poems, re-imagining them, inspecting them with our today eyes.

  2. You are surely right about the relativity of youth. Thanks, Bunny!