Poet's Corner: On old age
November 21, 2007
Two poems hit our e-mail from American Life in Poetry about growing old. The first one tells about forced retirement and how a husband compares his situation to that of his wife; the second one offers a snapshot of the relationship between an aging woman and her dog.

At a Certain Age

by Chicago poet Deborah Cummins

He sits beside his wife who takes the wheel.
Clutching coupons, he wanders the aisles
of Stop & Save. There's no place he must be,
no clock to punch. Sure,
there are bass in the lake, a balsa model
in the garage, the par-three back nine.
But it's not the same.
Time the enemy then, the enemy now.

As he points the remote at the screen
or pauses at the window, staring
into the neighbor's fence but not really seeing it,
he listens to his wife in the kitchen, more amazed
than ever--how women seem to know
what to do. How, with their cycles and timers,
their rolling boils and three-minute eggs,
they wait for something to start. Or stop.


The Lady and the Tramp

by Bruce Guernsey, Illinois poet

As my mother's memory dims
she's losing her sense of smell
and can't remember the toast
blackening the kitchen with smoke
or sniff how nasty the breath of the dog
that follows her yet from room to room,
unable, himself, to hear his own bark.

It's thus they get around,
the wheezing old hound stone deaf
baying like a smoke alarm
for his amnesiac mistress whose back
from petting him is bent forever
as they shuffle towards the flaming toaster
and split the cindered crisp that's left.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Deborah Cummins, and reprinted by permission of the author. Deborah Cummins' most recent book of poetry is "Counting the Waves," WordTech Communications, 2007. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Bruce Guernsey, whose newest book, "New England Primer," published by Cherry Grove Collections (WordTech Communications) is due out in 2008. Poem reprinted from "Spoon River Poetry Review", Vol. XXVI, no. 2, by permission of the author. Ted Kooser, who selects the poetry, served as US Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. The foundation does not accept unsolicited manuscripts; however, the JI does.

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