To My Old Age

by Bob Bradshaw
The Waters
Second Place, November 2020
Judged by Jim McGarrah

Huffing uphill leaves
my legs heavy as grief,
the trees panting
as if at any moment

one will place its limbs
on its hips,
arms akimbo
like a training instructor

at the gym, his new
and elderly client
–as my ex always claimed–
a disappointment.

At home I thwack
the hi-hats in the den
every time I walk by,
the ringing vibrations

like my a-fib.
How did this happen—
decades lost, as if swept off
by a furious broom.

There are creams
that promise to erase
my wrinkles, hair implants
to recover the lost

ringlets of my youth.
Everywhere young women
pushing baby carriages
in the Japanese tea garden

look less like wives
in their mid 20s
and more like girls
who should be taking notes

in a high school
biology class.
It’s odd how koi
and the pink faces of oleander

are the subjects
I now take note of,
as if old age
is a class without grades,

and one I hope never
to drop out of.

This is a keen observation of what it feels like to recognize mortality and the uncontrollable urge to stop the passing of time, or at least slow it down. The lines are short, which adds to an ever-increasing urgency as the images speed down the page. The images are clear and unobtrusive and lend themselves to the feeling that what is lost can never be recovered. Denise Levertov in her seminal book The Poet in the World argues that there is no such thing as “Free Verse” poetry. Every poem is organic in form. In other words no poem is without some kind of form, one which grows organically in harmony with the substance. She also posits that poets are not creators, they are translators. What they translate is human experience into language so that it can be felt by readers. This poem is a good example of both those theories. --Jim McGarrah