It is an admittedly odd sign
of my age that I recall clearly
when bathrooms were tiled mostly
in monochrome, black and white,
and it was a mark of quality when
each tile was hexagonal, a hive
of ceramic cells, impenetrable.
Now tiles are square or rectangular,
come in a rainbow of colors, often
intermixed to achieve looks
unimaginable back in my youth,
and walls a painted with any color
you can imagine, not the eighteen shades
of white from which my parents had
the choice for our new house.
But change can be for the better,
and in proof of that you need only
look around and see that bathroom
fixtures are mostly white, occasionally
black, not sickly green or peach,
and, thank the gods, no one has
avocado appliance these days.
There are those occasional moments
of clarity that appear without warning
and are, as quickly, gone.
We expect them less as we age
and they oblige us by staying away.
Children assume them, and are
rarely surprised, as though
they see them coming, need no warning
and have no expectation
anything will come of them.
Expectations grow proportionally with age
and patience diminishes apace.
The child understands all of this
with the same fascination she has
for a soap bubble, as she watches
each float away on the breeze of time.
He wants to have his
midlife crisis in peace and quiet.
He has penciled it in his calendar
for at least five years now.
Something always comes up,
something that demands he
be in public, and he simply
will not have a crisis
in that setting, no matter what.
He’s sure he supposed to have one
although as time goes by
he isn’t sure what purpose
it would serve, it isn’t
that his life isn’t half over,
merely that he has what he wants
and the crisis is best used
as an excuse to get something
utterly unnecessary and useless,
and that, for him,
is so five years ago.
He walks slowly, with a stoop, born of time or knowledge of a world that has seeped away. He smiles, but you cannot tell if it is at the worm slowly crossing the sidewalk, or the young woman pulling on the leash of her far too large dog. He could walk this route with his eyes closed, has done so to prove a point, but he knows he might hit someone. That happens when his eyes are open, given his stoop. He has become a student of shoes, and in summer, of feet. He can tell a great deal about a person by her feet. He prefers women’s feet. They care and it shows. He’s amazed how calloused and dirty men’s feet often are, as if washing them was always going to be an afterthought. He knows the day is coming when he will no longer be able to walk. When that day comes, he hopes they will just put him in a pine box and not wrap him in a blanket and wheel him around, swabbing the drool from his chin. He was a baby once, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience that time either.
An elk stands at the edge
of a placid mountain lake
and sees only the clouds
of an approaching winter.
A black bear leans over
the mirrored surface of the lake
and sees only the fish
that will soon be his repast.
The young man draped
in saffron robes looks
calmly into the water and sees
a pebble, the spirit of his ancestors.
I look carefully into the water
looking for an answer to a question
always lurking out of reach
and see only my ever thinning hair.
First appeared in Greens Magazine (Can) 29:1 2000
They hide in corners, and you think
you can see them, but you cannot be certain
for they are vague and could be no more
than wishes, but belief is sufficient.
As you grow older, the number of corners grow
and a universe of but eight corners
is now itself tucked in a corner of memory.
One corner hides the face of the man
who adopted me, watched for two years,
before departing suddenly, and the only item
I have is his diploma rolled up in a tube
where my own accomplishments are rolled.
In another corner the day I met the man
I now call father is so deeply buried
only his present, increasingly absent
aging face is all I can see.
Memories are elusive, appearing
and disappearing without warning
day by day the oldest evanesce
and that corner is filled
by another memory grown vague.