How readily, how easily
he weeps these days
sometimes for nothing more
than idly watching
a small spider creep along
a sunlit crack of wooden floor
or for a long familiar meaning
that he keeps inside of him
but cannot find the wording for.

Those around him, how they try
to make him happier— they
keep saying please donโ€™t cry.

If not the master of his fate
he always thought himself
to be the captain of his soul,
knew how to quietly
gulp back a sob and keep
a trembling chin under control.

How well he learned to deal
in what society had taught him
someone is supposed to feel.

Society means less and less
to him with age. He doesnโ€™t care
to reminisce or wistfully to dwell
on disappearances, or assuage
the thought of death with chat
of grandkids who are doing well.

He only wants to hold the book
and read the page he once marked
with a pressed white asphodel

and sail his bonny brine-tossed ship
star-eyed upon the mother ocean
deep in love with every rise and dip.

54 responses »

  1. I came to this wondrous encapsulation of this man after reading and listening to a longish blog on Shostakovich. How well he learned to deal in what society had taught him someone is supposed to feel. Both men sailed star-eyed upon the mother ocean deep in love with every rise and dip. Wonderful as always and something that stays with me throughout the day.

    • In all honesty I can’t say that I appreciate Shostakovich, but that’s probably my lack of musical understanding. But if he was a spirit akin to the one in this poem, I’m pleased. I always admired him for his support of poets like Yevtushenko and Joseph Brodsky when the chips were down. Thank you, as always, Bruce.

    • I hadn’t actually paid attention to that progression from details to lyricism, but that’s a nice observation, John. I’m always glad when you like one of my poems. Thank you very much!

  2. ….how very long it seems to take us to understand that the ‘he’ among the lines and verses is really ‘we’. My dear, your finest hour is when speaking to us, teaching us of the ephemeral, the fleeting, and of course, the lingering–the not-quite-gone, not-quite-here.

    • You have hit the nail on the head (I shouldn’t be surprised) when you move the reference from “he” to “we”. And in doing so, you certainly know how to speak poetically about a poem, dear Lance. I know you’re a watercolorist….might you not be a poet, too?

    • It’s very kind of you to find this worth your reblogging. I hope your “not too distant future” will be full of goodness. (I’m already there and enjoying quite a few aspects! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. The asphodel image cemented the poem for me. Itโ€™s odd but I don’t often speak about your poems directly, preferring to travel circuitous routes that lead nowhere mostly–not because of your work, but rather because of my embryonic understanding of prosody–which often puts me at a disadvantage. Still, I stand in awe of your achievements and am happy to forget myself totally within the warm bosom of your words.

    • The asphodel image was pure inspiration from who-knows-where, and speaks to me best, also. Worry not about direct critiques of poems. You contribute so much intelligence and sheer fun to this comment section (as I am told by others who are not too shy to inform me that they enjoy the comments as much as my poems, ahem…)that I consider you a treasure. Besides, you nearly always tickle my dormant absurdity bone, challenge my verbal imagination and , heck, make me laugh. What could be better?

      • Your poems are received with great รฉclat for good reason, but if I were to start dissecting, for example, the rhythm of the graduated deaths we experience daily or, taking a different tack, the rhyme of sublimity in the ordinary–all rather than indulging in my usual gallimaufry of meaningless phrases, it would excite comment: Prospero has finally and irrevocably gone mad.

  4. Oh boy, this covers a whole world of stuff. And packs a punch with some beautiful imagery. But it’s specific as well. I bet everyone had thoughts of a person or two past or present. My father in his last years came to mind.

    • I think you may be right about readers’ plugging this into their own personal stories, Lisa. Writing it was a special experience for me, and that’s not true of every poem. I’m always happy when an” iffy” life situation takes a turn in a poem, towards joy. I’m glad it made you think of your father in his last years….good thoughts, I trust.

  5. This one is enduring and, I think, one of your very best. My brother maintains that the UK society’s “stiff upper lip” in which men don’t cry deprives them of an important method of emotional release. He says that it is quite acceptable for men to weep even in public and that it in no way detracts from their masculinity; to prove his point he does so on occasion.. I admire the allusion to an everlasting love which makes me recall that popular song “He stopped loving her today”. Somehow making the “we” if this is intended, into a “he” makes the poem more poignant as we would expect a “she” to weep and reminisce with tears. I did wonder whether the weeper, clad in all those beautiful words, might actually be you with your loss which must haunt you daily. Do try to get his one published in a magazine or something as it needs to emerge from the annuls of the blogging world – in my opinion it is that good!

    • Thank you for this lovely comment, Jane. When and where I grew up, the ‘stiff upper lip” was also expected of males. But I knew from my younger brothers it was not something that came naturally. Years later, when I became familiar with Italian-Americans, I enjoyed the fact that they could so easily show their emotions….although I must say too much “expressivity” can also be tiresome. The “he” of this poem indeed carries something I do know and understand. Sailing this ship can be a voyage of mixed emotions, regret, and joy, too, which is often misunderstood. People tend to think crying is always about pain and sadness and are often uncomfortable when they observe it in others. (except of course at four-hankie movies.) I’m flattered that you urge me to get this in print, but my research has told me I don’t write the kind of poetry now in vogue at the publications— whether indie, academic, or popular—-and I find the necessary tooth and claw process way too taxing, Still, I love that you think it worthy. Thanks again.

  6. So beautiful, so recognisable. Miriam, our singing teacher at school, amazed us as her eyes would swim with tears at any moving phrase of music. I understand this all too well now. There is territory in life, in music and in poetry where I tread cautiously, knowing that another step and I will be sailing off too.

    • I can picture youngsters being amazed at Miriam…I remember being very unsettled, as a child, the one time I saw my father cry. That kind of letting go has to seem curious to a child who may think adults are in control of the world. But as you say, this is not just about “he” and, in fact, for me it is not necessarily any particular territory anymore, either….yes, music; yes, poetry; yes the color in a painting…or it could be a patch of light on the carpet, or just because leaves are dancing in the wind, and it’s thursday…. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I saw my husband in your all words Cynthia, as you brilliantly write about this societal taboo form of self-expression for men. He has had an emotionally and exhausting September and October, tears have come easily when before I know they wouldn’t come at all. And the most liberating part for me to have seen was that the flood has allowed him to express himself in ways that relieved much sadness and in a way shed a heavy coat from his sagging shoulders. Yes, age gives way to a certain form of freedom. Thank you my friend – yesterday we celebrated our 28th anniversary, as we grow old together the specialness of our deep understanding of each other and relationship continues to move us to new places to explore.

    • It’s a flowering plant with a long, long history in myth and poetry. Our word “daffodil” is derived from the French “fleur de l”afrodile” meaning “flower of the asphodel.” The one in this poem probably was from a daffodil. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Very beautiful, Cynthia. I can see it all. It is interesting that we watch, and understand. We don’t have the inclination to reach out to him to extend comfort, do we? It is also interesting to me how you are able to make an entire person–someone we are watching, as if real–in a few stanzas.

  9. What a beautiful evocation of getting older. You have so wonderfully described the sense of folding things up and checking them off and the sudden lurch from stoicism to sentimentality which knocks at the door when least expected or wanted. Being old is a lonely and solitary mission, yet I would not have it otherwise, I think, when all the old dear loved ones are gone.

    • There is no choice, Natalie. So much about this stage in life is either denied or presented to us by our social media as disease or sickly nostalgia, that it’s very difficult to find anything good or honest about it. It’s mostly perceived and presented by those who are too young to know, and the elderly are largely silent….except for the ones who never got past adolescence anyway. I remember how my grandparents appeared to me, and how silent they were about their own lives…there are few good “role models” (how I hate that phrase) to promote the kind of dignity that has always accrued to the elders in earlier societies.

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