The reason my poems are called “Life-Built Poems” is because I use everything I encounter as a “foundation” to construct them – any idea, any feeling, any life event or change can end up as a poem. The “materials” list for poetry construction includes tears, joy, rage and every emotion your heart and body can feel as well as every thought your mind can think, no matter how “politically incorrect” or whatever the latest bugaboo thing the Mind Police has promulgated. You can throw in every laugh and every sob and every pensive moment.
You reach for freedom when you pick up that pen. It’s one other way to access your Inner Smarty-Pants…one that doesn’t require turning your body into a pretzel or trying a bunch of confusing esoteric stuff that’s apparently designed to turn you into a space cadet first.
I’m a Baby Boomer. When I wrote this poem, it seemed to me that there is a whole lot of denial going ’round. I don’t know if it’s our so-called “youth-oriented” culture, or what it is. I do know that Old is not a popular thing. (Oh, it’s okay and well and good if the friend you’ve had since kindergarten is getting more ditzy every time you see her and is showing a bunch of wear and tear. But, really, old is NOT you. Right.)
This whole denial thing bothered me and maybe that’s why this poem happened. When I read it at a Maui Live Poets gathering, every one of my contemporaries smiled or laughed out loud, probably in recognition (or at least in acknowledgment). I suppose the young ones smirked. (Of course, this whole age thing is never going to happen to them….)
It’s a popular fiction now
To pretend that our grandparents’ “old”
Is the new “middle age,”
That, somehow, “young” is really third prize.
(The young ones snicker quietly
At our loudly-espoused contentions.
They roll their eyes
At the silly masks we hide behind.)
Me, I’ll go with a radical confession instead.
I’m going to say it out loud:
I AM OLD.
Your polite refutations and objections won’t change this verity.
This is not an invitation for you
To grab a big eraser and wipe away my real….
As if it’s some erasable purple ink
Writ large on a whiteboard.
I AM OLD.
And, yeah, I do know
Time is not on my side.
The indignities of age press in.
But, there are compensations, ya know.
The book of days I carry with me is heavy
With memories of people loved and deeds done and done,
Of dreams fulfilled and fantasies exposed,
Of critical lessons learned and learned again,
Just one more artifact in the museum of my life.
And, still, somewhere in all of that
There’s the silly little girl in the bright red pointy shoes.
She’s still dancin’,
And, still, she makes me laugh!
By Netta Kanoho
Picture credit: Old People Sign by Richard Riley via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
So, hey, what are you thinking? What are you feeling? Why not go ask your Inner Smarty-Pants?
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