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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 1, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Both my husband and myself are in our eighties, so the subject of aging seems natural. The immediate impetus for the poem came from Emmanuel Fournier’s unbeatably succinct statement, which became my epigraph. I was reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and became fascinated with black holes—hence the vocabulary from physics. I also reread Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Janet Kauffman's Rot at the time and incorporated phrases from both.”
—Rosmarie Waldrop

Aging

Aging. Being in pain. Finishing. Rotting.
             —Emmanuel Fournier
 
 

We feel we’ve contracted into very dim, very old white dwarf stars, not yet black holes. Wrinkled, but not quite withered. Dropped out of summer like a stone, we watch time fall. With the leaves. Into a deeper color. Wavelengths missing in the reflected light.
 

The road toward rotting has been so long. We forget where we are going. Like a child, I look amazed at a thistle. Or drink cheap wine and hug my knees. To shorten the shadow? To ward off letting go?
 

So much body now, to be cared for. What with the arrow, lost cartilage, skeleton within. Memory no longer holds up. A bridge to theory and dreams. Impervious to vertigo. Days are long and too spacious.
 

Though the sun is a mere eight light-minutes away elderly dust hangs. Over the long sentences I wrote in the last century. Now thoughts in purpose tremor, in lament, in search of. Not being too soon? Going to be? Unconformities separating strata of decay?
 

You say aimlessness has its virtues. Just as not fully understanding may be required for harmony. And blow your nose. You sing fast falls the eventide, damp on the skin, with bitter wind. And here it is again, the craving for happiness that night induces. Or the day of marriage.
 

The difference of our bodies makes for different velocities. But gravity is always attracting, and my higher speed. Cannot outrun the inner fright we seem made of. Though I gesticulate broadly. As in a silent movie. Running after the train, waving goodbye.
 

Distant galaxies are moving away from us. Friends, lovers, family. Even the sky shifts toward red. Where every clearness is only. A more welcoming slope of the night. And I don't remember why I opened the door.
 

Mouth full of moans, you believe the natural state. Is a body at rest. And close your eyes to the threat of your face disappearing. Without thought or emotion. Into its condition. And I thought I knew you.
 

Are the complications thinning to a final simplicity? The nearest thing to a straight path in curved space? Clouds of gas slowly collapsing? With only one possible outcome? But unlike a black hole I keep my hair on. As I move toward the unquestionable dark.
 

This dark, Mrs. Ramsay thinks, is perhaps the core of every self. The deep note of existence the ear finds, but cannot hold on to. Across the vicissities of the symphony. Or else this dark could be our shelter in the time of long dominion. And though we are not well suited to the perspectives it opens it is an awesome thing to see. Once you can see it.

Copyright © 2018 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Rosmarie Waldrop

Rosmarie Waldrop

Born in Germany in 1935, Rosmarie Waldrop is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, fiction, and criticism

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