Poems of Ageing

This is a small but, not surprisingly, growing part of my output.  Ageing is a time of new opportunities but also in many ways a troubling time, and these conflicting emotions have found their way into my poetry.  In a society where older people have become a larger component of the population at large, and where services relating to ageing have become an industry in themselves, we may expect that the arts will reflect these phenomena more and more.  This is very evident on the screen, so why not poetry as well?

 

How this might affect poetic style I’m not sure.  In my own case, ageing has brought forth a bit more humour, but equally there’s the possibility that it will bring forth feelings of anxiety, loss of control, and indeed despair.  The modes of expression are likely to be fairly conventional, even though in some cases one might be writing about states of mind where disorientation is a factor, and it would not be unreasonable to expect the unexpected to surface as a result: thoughts to be incomplete or jumbled, for example.  My little poem Forgotten, dealing with dementia, is a case in point.


For what it’s worth, I can never think of ageing in poetry without T. S. Eliot coming to mind.  In Eliot we find more than just physical ageing; we find also the decay of the spirit, which is not just an individual experience but something that occurs in a society or even civilisation as well.  And as I move deeper into old age, I wonder whether Western civilisation isn’t also, in some senses at least, in a parallel condition.


MIDLIFE CRISIS

 

Drifting.

 

Alone on a thrashing sea,

Searching the night gloom.

No hope but ocean’s dread release,

Its dark and desperate womb.

 

O what may save me now?

New work, new ease,

New lust, new love,

New craft of fantasies?

 

Will it be my own true boat?

How will I ever know?

And will this matter if

It saves me from the hell below?

 

 

WHEN I’M RETIRED

 

I long for the day

When I’m not a barnacle

Crusted onto work that’s only for pay.

 

But what will I do?

I don’t want to grub for a living

Like a hen scratching round with its aimless crew.

 

I want to have style,

Be a lyrebird singing a song,

Pouring out notes that delight and enthrall.

 

I’ll drink cappuccino,

Sit in the sun, write fine poetry,

Read, then play some tennis (a set or so).

 

I’ll travel, I’ll explore,

Have some fun, find exotica

And seek out the things I’ve missed before.

 

Come and go as I please:

That’s what I want to do.

I’ll be a fish swimming the seven seas.

 

 

ENERGY IN OLD AGE

 

I want not to rot.

 

Like the sun

I want to burn to the bourne.

 

Like a fire

I want to glow magnifico.

 

Like a flame

I want to flicker with vigour.

 

So age and decay,

You must melt away.

 

 

FORGOTTEN

 

Death by dementia.

No one comes

Anymore.

Like water at the water’s edge

Slipping into the sand,

Here but not here.

And you are best

 







alone on a thrashing sea


ocean's dark and desperate womb


a barnacle crusted onto work


a hen scratching round with its aimless crew


a lyrebird pouring out notes


a fish swimming the seven seas


to burn to the bourne


to glow magnifico


age and decay - melt away


water at the water's edge slipping into the sand


and you are best