Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor,
Not going left, not going right.


—Stephen Sondheim



I like to get drunk and I like to write.
I search for ways in and canít find them,
But that doesnít mean theyíre not there. What isnít
There is the life between the words, the life that existed
Beyond the words, the life I donít have anymore.
In Michigan the feelings soaked the page,
Yet now they seem diminished in the telling
And no longer in our time, no longer of our place,
But in another country, one of an imagination
Anchored in a style; no longer in the stream
Or swamp, where the fishing was tragic.

I (whichever I this is) saw Follies last year.
The Weismann Girls come back to stand for what they were
And arenít anymore, in a theatre slated for demolition.
Sally is a prisoner of her rage and her imagination,
Pining for the magic of what might have been
Until the spell breaks, leaving her alone on the stage
Amid the shards of her illusions. As she looks around
For what she is, all she can find is her age:
ďIím forty-nine. Thatís all I am.Ē

Why do I get so angry? Why do I assume
The characters I love, the characters I love and hate?
Thereís a corruption from which Iíve never recovered
That diminishes me each day, until I canít tell which I am
Anymore, the mask or the face. The boat in Havana:
Last time was the last time. The stirring begins each night
And continues through the day here in a home that isnít home,
With Michigan far away, the finca far away, alone
In the vestibule in the early morning light, imagining
The feeling of cool steel against my forehead
And the sound of two drawers slamming.
Iím sixty-two. Thatís all I am.
 
Copyright © 2013 by John Koethe. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 20, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Poems by This Author

A Perfume by John Koethe
There were mice, and even
Chester by John Koethe
Another day, which is usually how they come
Creation Myths by John Koethe
Some have the grandeur of architecture
Fear of the Future by John Koethe
In the end one simply withdraws
Hackett Avenue by John Koethe
I used to like connections:
Sally's Hair by John Koethe
It's like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
The Bean House by John Koethe
Diane christened it the Bean House
The Yacht Clubs by John Koethe
Like a question in a dream
This is Lagos by John Koethe
Instead of the usual welcoming sign to greet you


Further Reading

Poems About Aging
Abandonment Under the Walnut Tree
by D. A. Powell
Affirmation
by Donald Hall
Age
by Robert Creeley
Age and Death
by Emma Lazarus
Almost Sixty
by Jim Moore
Beyond the Years
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Blues
by Elizabeth Alexander
Demeter in Paris
by Meghan O'Rourke
El Dorado
by Edgar Allan Poe
Fear of the Future
by John Koethe
First Gestures
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Fixed Interval
by Devin Johnston
Forgetfulness
by Billy Collins
Gerontion
by T.S. Eliot
Get Up, Please
by David Kirby
In View of the Fact
by A. R. Ammons
Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year
by Maxine Kumin
Moonlight
by Sara Teasdale
My Lost Youth
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
My Skeleton
by Jane Hirshfield
Poem at Thirty
by Michael Ryan
Preparation
by Effie Waller Smith
Quiet
by Tony Hoagland
Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets
by Thomas Lynch
Rock Me to Sleep
by Elizabeth Akers Allen
Self-Portrait
by Adam Zagajewski
Since Nine—
by C. P. Cavafy
The Chicago Poem
by Jerome Rothenberg
The Edges of Time
by Kay Ryan
The Human Seasons
by John Keats
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
The Widows of Gravesend
by L. S. Asekoff
The Young Man's Song
by W. B. Yeats
this kind of fire
by Charles Bukowski
To a Young Girl at a Window
by Margaret Widdemer
To Chloe: Who for his sake wished herself younger
by William Cartwright
To Earthward
by Robert Frost
to my last period
by Lucille Clifton
To Think of Time
by Walt Whitman
Two Horses and a Dog
by James Galvin
When You are Old
by W. B. Yeats