Your smile features wrinkles, but your frown
engraves you ugly. Horizontal lines
can be accepted; it’s the up-and-down
that carves a witch. I recognize the signs
of bitterness, perpetual complaint,
and self-referring needy attitude.
Your scowl drags your cheeks, and stripes in faint
apostrophes a lip of foul mood.
I’ve seen your smile make your eyes expand.
It smoothes your skin; it rounds your face; it grows
a corrugated mouth from bitter, bland,
or angry to an arc of glee, and shows
a brand of beauty that took years to form,
exquisite as the love that keeps you warm.
Compared to friends, I often feel I get
away with happiness. I ransom glee
from Morpheus, elude the counterfeit
of ease, and don my harness willingly.
(Elastic doesn’t bind so much as hold.)
(I need a bit of tension in my stance.)
(I like my effort when it’s self-controlled
exertion that becomes a private dance).
My body seldom hurts. At 64
I’m fitter than I felt when I was young.
I smoke 2 joints before I shut my door
to leave, so happy now I’ve found my tongue
I let it sing its selfish harmony,
with nothing less than air inspiring me.
Sure every generation has its terms,
but ours is far the biggest, and our own.
The things we did, the ways we thought affirms
my words – remember feeling we had grown
a bumper crop of weird? That not before
had any age seemed so significant?
We aimed to change the world, but this is more
the truth: our parents were the ones who went
and started voiding all the wonted rules,
by making bombs and then this crop of us,
by sending women off to jobs and schools,
and letting us rid sex of all its fuss.
My age built webs – a gifted child excuse –
today we’re getting what our kids produce.
A situation comedy I viewed,
an arc produced two score of years ago,
when ads were short, technology was crude,
and I made time to watch that type of show,
exhibited a heroine of taste,
a single woman then beyond compare –
erect, good-looking, waspy in the waist,
but what I focused on was Mary’s hair.
Remember how we struggled for that style?
We taped and wrapped and rolled and sprayed and teased
until we screamed, forgetting she would smile,
for hair was serious and we displeased.
I gazed upon that tidy flip and thought:
now why on earth was that the look we sought?
I breakfasted on fury years ago.
I took my news with coffee, always struck
by crazy trends, surreal reports, a show
of mob-bemused insanity. I’d buck
at paragraphs that weren’t proven, know
my mind and no one else’s, have no truck
with ads or slogans. Ranting I would blow
so hard, my collie thought his name was Fuck.
But that was then. By now I have endured
the dog’s demise, erosive years. Today
no tantrums or conniptions can be heard
each morning, as I stretch and aim the way
I’ll spend the minutes. Now my steady word,
repeated like a mantra, is: “Okay…”
Our transport is an armored war machine:
a road unto itself in black and white.
We wheel on inexorably between
the contours of depression and delight.
Anxiety and ecstasy and pain
we ride; we take the valley and the height,
and rattle at each benchmark we attain,
our passage agitated left and right.
The tank of time has bearings in its wheels
and casts its minutes off like clods of earth
that fly away apart, and so reveals
a road in retrospect that starts at birth
and cuts a path through each succeeding day,
that only after passing shows its way.
My generation starts to feel its age.
We harden arteries, redeem our hair,
deplete our bones of calcium, and wage
cosmetic war to camouflage the wear.
The world’s economy inhibits us
from consolations that our parents had,
who justified anxieties and fuss
by figuring we wouldn’t have it bad.
As you arise all creaky from your bed
and taste your morning breath, attend my voice.
For I can’t tell you how to get ahead,
but I can lay before you simple choice:
you need to use your muscles and your mind,
or don’t complain you’ve left yourself behind.