For as we age
Our faces fold in upon themselves
The maps of all our days emerge
In laugh-lines, in worry-warts
In fingers grown like twigs on a forest floor
Beginnings mete out endings
Relations fall from edges of our earths
White-salted seas encroach once-growing green
But all in all, I would not have it any other way:
For from these stiff environs
Virility of the mind evokes
The thoughts speak themselves
I am beyond caring, evolved from a life of care
Having achieved my mantra:
I have nothing left to lose
Each day to gain
God himself has tasted my winter soul
And wrought the miracle of spring
Familiar as my teeth is age
Brought into balance by agelessness
For all that brings eternal into mind is mine
Too soon, too young retires into mist
As all turns white
The color of my bones
Emerging into earth
And when this is decay & eyes are dark
This life no more
A tiny spark will up, away
A laugh’s delight
Free of sinew-flesh, of lips & liver
Free of knees that kneel no more to men
With arms no more to carry, carry
Lifting life & bearing it.
My woman’s heart will finally know silence
As into the drumming beat of life I go
Into the seas beyond a mortal shore
I’ll swim, a silver skim of scales
Mouth wide to all the light of life
Eternal & intense
Reflecting in the mirror
Behind me all the toils of the world
I swim to fly,
Oh Mother! Father! I had the most wonderful dream!
The Muse returns, unequivocal, demanding
Surrounding me with her perfumed robes
Pushing the pen into my hand
Closing my eyes, I write once more
The words that will me to live for ever
For ages yet to be, for thoughts unheard
On paths unseen
She turns my head away from all of now
As I become the beyond of her desire
“Write!” she snarls, pearly teeth all shown
“Never be I said I failed you, my slave to words,
Silver-hearted, blood-borne light,
“Write, you fool of phrase, trap them each
In broken sigh. Pile them all upon your sleigh
Take up the traces, pull them forward
Wake them up for there is no such thing as sleeping
To be had today.
Dash your tears into the future
Follow them there
What lies beyond cannot forget itself, let alone forgive,
But must be said, be felt in dream again
I leave no stone unturned, no gift unopened
This is all yours, this blessing of the Scribe.
You need aught else, you have no more
Than these true words grinding into wheat
Between the millstones of your swollen heart
And this, your only life.
Yes, you hear me now; I’ve never died
tho you’ve given me last rites
I will ink your middles
Till you rise into the last Word
Like God Himself calling forth all heaven.
“Write!” she growls, “you think you’re harried now?
I will harrow you to dust unless you do!”
Every day I carefully sift through my closet to put together an outfit that’s coordinated, spiffy & “interesting.” I sigh about being on old lady, but I dress it up anyway. I fix my hair (wear it front or back?), I dress for the weather (long sleeves in New Mexico can be too much at any given time, even midwinter, given our 360 days of sunshine), I select footwear: shoes or can I still get away with sandals? I dig out makeup (a bit of eyeliner to paint under the epicanthic folds gravity is kindly manifesting for me), I bring in the magic 10x mirror & sit it in front of the light-filled window & pick at the salt n pepper facial hairs determinedly darkening my complexion (oh to be fair! But then, I never was in this lifetime.) I defuzz by degrees after the initial shudder at the ever-visible moustache line.
I tried whitening my teeth & that worked pretty well, tho expensive & sensitizing to gums. I try to walk each day after stretching out on the yoga mat through a warm-up routine tho I never quite get to full count on anything abdominal. I use three-pound hand weights when I walk – got biceps? I do! But who sees these? I can’t walk around all day flexing like some gym rat checking the bod in a hundred mirrors. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to, though. This is my first time in life with real biceps, after all.
From a distance, I look pretty good. It’s only up close & when I smile that you see the parentheses of wrinkles crinkling everywhere. My throat has a kind of sun-ray pattern to it which I find interesting, but which keeps me from wearing necklaces I once loved, as I don’t want to call attention there. And as I smile & the wrinkles appear & the collagen-depleted skin rearranges, guess what emerges from the little valleys between the crinkles, like some 3D kiddie pop-up book? More hairs.
I have read that hearing is the last sense to go in the body. But I have news for you – it’s Vanity. What’s the last thing done to the body? The undertaker puts make-up on you! Right? And as we age, our ears begin to once more grow (they also [OMG] clump bunches of hair). Our noses become visible from space. Our triceps assume the consistency of slackly drooping clotheslines. Our necks crepe up, our eyebrows figure it’s time to finally meet one another across the nose bridge…on & on. We should probably light candles to the great god Gravity, but Gravity, having brushed every appendages down in a bland assurance that nothing is where it started, has left the building & is out somewhere holding down trees & cars & waiting for apples to fall.
I see my mother’s hands when I look down at them typing. I see my Mom’s hair, the little waves all about. She used to put a touch of olive oil in hers for shine & control. I use a kind of sticky power-gel in a vain attempt at total control. We lived by the ocean & beach hair is a phenomenon of itself. Before I left Delaware, I started seeing t-shirts saying “Beach Hair, Don’t Care!” so I know it’s not a private matter any longer. Now it’s advertising.
So, after all is said & done, all the zipping up & pulling down, all the blow drying & insertion of earrings, the careful selections & accoutrements of fashionable accessories, I make sure I stand far enough back from the mirror that the details blur out a bit. I tell myself, “Just look at how beautiful you are!” And I walk, loose-limbed, straight-backed, smiling my face into its road map & head out. Today I wore a mostly red tie-dye shirt, a red hoodie vest, a red & purple scarf, carried a flowered Laura Ashley bag & wore lipstick. It paid off!
In the Wal-Mart, as I headed for the SmartPop white cheddar mini-bags – my latest sugar avoidance go-to (tho to an Italian, cheddar roughly equals chocolate) – I heard a voice behind me say, “I love your clothes!” And I turned, beaming, to the four-year-old fella holding to granma’s shopping cart to say, “Thank you, dear!”