R J HAUSER
I turned seventy-six in August
I sometimes wonder about the trajectory of getting old
which is less like a steady ascent to a bright summit
than it is the awkward stumbling down a slope
to a dark vale where visions pale and hopes plummet.
Not that keen on the encouragement you get from others
whose words are meant to comfort themselves, not you,
self-assurances they won’t be called on that soon to help
and their own last years will merge with a gentle twilight too.
Occasionally I am racked by a spasm of geriatric jealousy
of the vim and vibrant drive that makes the young ones tough,
but then in sober reflection traversing again the panoply of pain,
the strained yearnings of my own youth, happy to cry enough.
Perhaps my life is like a skipping stone flung upon the water,
big bounces at the beginning full of untamed energy and zest,
the slow slackening of momentum, the more constant buffets
of surface abrasions, the final staccato splashes, the sink to rest.
The secret is to get the balance straight. To look back with thankful
nostalgia and relive triumphs and pleasures with grateful delight,
to pass over the pain and not want to live all the good stuff again
but watch with the quiet peace milked from wisdom and insight.
More than that, to grasp again the central lesson of a full life,
that pride is a beast whose need for satisfaction ends in self-harm,
but the loss of ego in positive endeavour and sterling service
engenders the ultimate grace of an affirming and comforting balm.