“You do too much,” my mother says of late,
who used to carp at me for laziness.
I haven’t shirked real work. I’m 68,
and though I harbor barks of craziness,
I’ve never dropped an oar. I pull my weight,
and just because I argued never meant
she had a point, for sloth was not my trait –
my course reveals good energy well-spent.
At 24 my mother lost her mom,
and moved to suburbs and a social life.
She sang her mother’s praises like a psalm
on selflessness, while she rocked modern wife.
She knows I’m for my grandkids, thought and touch,
and now her slogan is, “You do too much.”
It does no good to say I told you so.
That irritates the hearer to a snit.
The speaker was correct, and needn’t throw
a boast about. It’s inappropriate
and doesn’t work. Like when you’re judging me,
you say you’re not but talk like you’ve the clue
to how to live most satisfactorily,
and I’d be well-advised to follow you.
But see, I started figuring at five,
revising and amending when I could.
I listened to myself – I stayed alive
and conscious – my conclusions did me good.
Alone and well, it now looks like I built
a form of vigorous survivor guilt.
The weather seemed in sympathy that day
with his despair: abysmal dismal guy.
But that was mere coincidence – the way
he staggered out, tear-blinded as the sky
shellacked his pain with rainfall. Inside out
ran water, but that wasn’t really it;
the weather didn’t join his anguished shout.
Instead he found the storm appropriate
for loosing his confusion and his pain.
The downpour hid his tears, and he could wail
his agony beneath the thrum of rain,
and stumble under darkness. Rant or flail,
that storm did not so much reflect as stir
his grief and anger once – then let it blur.
A dozen years ago, a boy was born
who made a grandmother of her and me.
Released from life, she’s now a loss to mourn,
and this is offered as an elegy.
We needed her. The grandpas aren’t close;
the steps have chilly personalities.
The loving ours, we co-supplied the dose
on which grandkids can thrive. From me the squeeze,
from her the cakes and kisses – we tag-teamed.
We rarely saw each other but we knew
our hearts were warm, our efforts what they seemed.
And nothing I can say of her’s more true
the woman loved and sought and tried
her best – her journey was a fruitful ride.
I feel a little altered, and it’s good.
I’m safe at home without a task that calls.
There’s gentle rain outside to darken wood
and speckle glass, and as the moisture falls
the tense contractions in my limbs unfold.
I glory in the heat that radiates
my room from flaming gas remote-controlled,
and settle in to what this page creates.
Admittedly, I smoked a little herb
when I returned from errands self-assigned,
and maybe I indulged in something more.
I have some inclinations I should curb,
but I’m of age and sound enough in mind
to spike my better judgment with my poor.
I’m stunned by the mortality of men
I used to love. They ought to stay alive,
although I never thought I’d see again
the three no longer breathing of the five
significant to me as partners: first
and last and in between, companions of
my escapades, decisions with the worst
results, beloved enemies of love.
The streets are clogged with senior citizens.
A fleet of walkers brandish tennis balls.
Our medicine prolongs the lives of men
who used to die of age. Those nature calls
can win parole, and put the call on hold,
but I’ve lost three who weren’t all that old.
A first world problem challenges its host
as much as if its scale, in tragic score,
were strong as the misfortunes striking most
in disadvantaged circumstances. More
or less, it seems the sufferer cannot
endure another atom of distress.
Whatever made them stronger they forgot,
and remedy’s beyond what they access.
So don’t apologize for your grim mood.
Sure you can count your blessings if you dare,
but that’s a different sort of attitude
than present pain, anxiety or care.
Unvarnished as your feelings are, I say
it’s best to let them be with you, today.