Middle Age is not a Literary Event

~ Old Dusty Bottle by Petr Kratochvil

There’s nothing much of poetry in my body at 42. Broken down, it looks like this:

Cracked heels support
calves pale enough to highlight stubble
and the greeny-blue of veins.

Knees caps, scarred, mark
a transition into cellulite
thighs that wobble.

A spreading bottom line
looms unfortunate reminders of
lost bikini days.

This waist that was
once
a waist,
and is now
more like a shelf
upholding stretchy waistbands.

Chest sags,
cowed between the slump
of weary shoulders.

Triceps that fought
gravity
and then forgot the
sucker punch.

Hands a map
of minute intersections,
a sticky web of seconds
fallen down the rabbit hole.

Face seamed in freckles
merging into age spots,
sinking into
creases left by worry.

Eyes netted in
crepe-paper wrinkles
rimed in tired shadows.

Middle age is no literary event.
It demands moisturizers before metaphors,
disavows the pretty phrase,
dances not to similes.

Middle age is stumbling. On the way down, the world cracks into a shift-eyed perspective. Broken there, it looks like this:

Cracked heels support
calves molded out of miles,
the long walk from childhood
to knowing who I am.

Knee caps, scarred, mark
the point of bending,
the grace of finding flexible.

A spreading bottom line
is, perhaps, an accumulation of hours
spent doing something other than
worrying
about the bottom line.

This waist that was once
and then again
stretched past imagination,
stretching me while
growing little girls.

Chest sags,
and then inhales a plenitude,
of stories, kisses,
and nestle-headed comfort.

Triceps that fought
those years of adolescence,
climbed out of holes,
and won.

Hands a map
of solace for
tiny palms,
fevered cheeks,
skinned knees and
bike-path bruises.

Face seamed in freckles
wrought by decades worth of sunshine
and tickle-hearted breezes
scooping laugh lines out
like waves.

Eyes netted in
memories
of books and knots and lessons,
of art and love and children.

Middle age is no literary event.
No stopping-off place with a lectern,
a donut
and some coffee.

There is everything of poetry in my body at 42.

8 thoughts on “Middle Age is not a Literary Event

  1. Lisa – I agree – you have somehow captured the bodily disintegration that is also the story of where we have been and what we have accomplished. Trophies and badges to wear proudly – all these wrinkles and sags. (And I have 14 extra years on you πŸ™‚

  2. Middle age might not have started out as a literary event…but you have made it one with this lovely poem. Today I caught myself in the mirror and saw three lines–wrinkles–in my forehead. “I’m old,” I told my husband. Apparently I’ve been making comments like these pretty frequently, because he laughed and said, “Why are you so obsessed with that lately?”

    Thank you for finding the beauty at the root of our changing bodies– the children borne, wisdom gained. Truly, I wouldn’t wish smoother skin back if along with it I had to take my life as it was then. I much prefer it now.

    • Sarah — I’ve been saying “I’m old” to my husband a lot lately too. I’ve been preoccupied with it, those wrinkles like pesky little gnats.

      The poem didn’t start out the way it ended — I didn’t figure out the “good” parts until I was halfway through and looked around, thinking, “There’s got to be more to this than scars and belly fat!” I think probably one of my kids came in then, or I looked over at the books I’ve read, and thought, “Oh . . . that’s it.”

      Like you, I wouldn’t go back in time, wouldn’t want to struggle through those same paths again, even with slightly smoother thighs. Let’s keep reminding each other, though — every time that mirror pops up, I seem to forget the lesson πŸ™‚

  3. A very clever poem! I love how the perspective switches in the second half to the bright side of 42! The life experiences that have shaped us physically, mentally, and emotionally will always make us stronger and wiser. I do not believe that we are getting “older” but rather “less young” which implies we still have some youth in us–it’s not all gone and will never truly disappear! You are beautiful, my dear, and always will be!

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