It takes a long time to become young.”—Pablo Picasso

For celebration I would go
to a place where I was happy once
where it is possible to dance
three-legged, nice and slow—

or out into deep winter’s honest air
where love once walked
and with my stick crack open
every ice-clenched puddle there—

maybe I would haunt the bakery aisle
at Stop & Shop, ogle the cakes,
and scare some people I don’t know
with my all- knowing smile.

Forget the presents—my desire
to divest, to simplify, to give away,
and live more quietly a monk-life now
outstrips that old urge to acquire.

So at close of day, a vagrant star
might seem to twinkle loud enough
to seem to ask me how it was
to be here, to have come so far—

I would not know how to reply.
At dusk I would walk home, not
looking back as ice grew once again
on puddles mirroring a gridelin sky.


97 responses »

  1. This one has the rhythm of a swaying dance. With the opening, I wondered if that was intentional. I don’t usually listen to you read, but after reading it twice myself, liking the rhythm, I listened to you, and liked it even more. The poem itself makes me uncomfortable. As a person both very fond of being alone, but also very lonely much of the time… Well, happy day to her, anyhow. Personally, if I liked cake and could eat it, I wouldn’t just ogle. I’d eat an entire cake and THEN pity myself.

    • Thank you, Laine. Sometimes Picasso knew what he was talking about. Your remark about being a storyteller reminded me of my paternal grandmother who used to forbid us ever to call anyone a liar….”just say they tell stories,” she insisted. 🙂

      • Grandparents are great storytellers 😉 My mom used to say “Don’t worry about those who speak falsely of you, keep doing the right thing. The truth will prevail.” – I will add prevail with some great stories to tell in the end too 🙂

  2. Delightful poem! I, too, picked up the swing of these lines, the 3 legged dance. Ah, my dear friend, I just love your being available in this way! So generously sharing your humor, you depth, your craft, your brilliance! Thank you!!! Now I am going to listen to you proclaim this…..

  3. I agree with those who hear the ‘sway’ and lilt in this poem – and it certainly strikes a chord in me. I shall have to come back to this one in my winter time and read it again. The fourth verse speaks to me, of me – so I see we have this in common too. I read also that you will celebrate your emergence into life in two days time [my time] so I will look out for you then 🙂 It does take us a long time to become young doesn’t it – I think I enjoy being me these days in a way I never have before, rich in memories and experiences, I now find a quiet pleasure in the solitude and rhythms of a simple life that are almost impossible to explain until I read your poems….

    • So true, Pauline, getting there is unimaginable until you get there…..and will probably always be unexplainable, nor is there any need for explanation among kindred souls. I think St. Augustine meant something like that when asked to speak about Time: I know what it is, but when you ask me to say what it is, I cannot. I sometimes think of grandparents or others who have passed on, and how I really had no idea what they were about, when I was young. (No one teaches us how to be old—in fact quite the opposite!) It would be fun to have them back some afternoon, to tea, and I would say “now I know, now I see,” and we would all sip, and smile. Thank you for your usual rich and thoughtful comment.

      • I had an aunt – a woman who enriched my tender, young soul more than she would ever have imagined – who told me [when I was about 21] how she felt herself to be as young and fresh as she saw me to be and how she was always shocked and startled when she was on her way somewhere, striding along purposefully and some young thing would overtake her with a careless lope and leave her struggling in their wake. Or she would catch a glimpse of a round, white haired woman puffing along in the reflection of a shop window and feel momentarily sorry for the struggles of the elderly before realising, with horror, that it was herself. We would laugh over these confessions and I, who felt very old at that time, would pretend I understood what she was experiencing. I would love to take tea with this woman again!

  4. I had to look up “gridelin” – what a delightful sound!! The poem is wonderful as always – and sparked in me the emotion that “I’m heading there” to the places where I was once…

    • I am very fond of gridelin, as a color of the sky. It mostly happens in the depth of winter around here, at early sunset, but especially at dawn, when the sky is streaked with mauve and yellow, and blue, and white, and….If you sense you are “heading there” let me just say it’s really a very okay place to be. Thanks, Bruce.

    • it’s especially fun, sometimes, to embrace one’s inner idiot child, don’t you think? I agree about that third stanza— haunting the bakery aisle in such a way would be a pleasure!

      • I think I embrace my inner child quite a lot, I possibly do not have anything else inside of me. Yes haunting the bakery aisle, without thinking about sugar, white flour and all that is bad for me (they say) !

        • “They” say too much, and before you know it, “they” reverse what they’ve said before! People have enjoyed flour and sugar for centuries, without obvious harm, though maybe they did not overdo it, as affluent, sedentary societies do now. And former generations didn’t have artificial chemical preservatives in their food for a longer shelf life. I say to myself, like an old popular American song: “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think!”

  5. Gridelin… I had to look this up and then listen again. The poem has a lovely sway to it and I enjoy the mental switchback between a whole lifetime and a day within one. I cracked the ice on the bird baths this morning, so I could feel this through my arm. Happy upcoming birthday!

    • Oh my…I haven’t thought about Edith Wharton in such a long time! It’s sort of nice to know we share(d) a birthday, and a pen-chant for the pen, though I suspect not much else! And your mother, too! In a strange way, that makes me feel even more connected to you! I’m glad you like this poem; your opinion is always important to me. As I type this tonight, there is a weather forecast for a terrible blizzard moving from the midwest to the northeast. I hope your neck of the woods and my neck of the woods are a bit too northerly to feel the brunt of it. Take care, Natalie.

  6. This is lovely, and I loved hearing you read it. The star, the dusk, the puddle mirroring-such beauty. I like “deep winter’s honest air” -I do think winter can pare things down, be clean and pure and beautiful the way trees are without their leaves, bare but not bereft. Anyway. . . Happy Birthday!

    • Hello Dixie! Your description of “deep winter’s honest air” is wonderful, and exactly what I was getting at. It’s so good to see your comment here, and thank you for the happy wishes!

  7. I am taken by your loudly twinkling star asking what it is like to be here, to have come so far. And who does know? I like this poem–it’s an elderly walkabout and I like its power and its thoughtfulness. Was too tired to comment last night. Now hunkered down for the storm. BTW, I have finished your book’s 1st read through and liked it very much. Some of the poems spoke very directly to me and I have meant to get together an email at some point!

    • I have been thinking of you, Lisa, as I hear about the cancelled flights at Reagan International and the oncoming onslaught. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be as bad as they’re making it sound in the news, and that you have battened your hatches well. it isn’t yet clear whether or not it’s coming to my neck of the woods.

      Your comments about the poem are, as always, very insightful and encouraging. I’m glad, too, that you like the book. I guess you know what goes into such an enterprise and how gratifying it is to have appreciative readers.

      Be safe….keep warm!

      • I’ve put my car in the county parking garage, as I have no interest in digging it out from two feet of snow. I have food, candles, batteries, and sterno, and am hoping only to need the food. I also have water and will keep the bath water in the tub tonight in case the water plant loses power. I’m ready to read, watch movies, and do some sewing and baking. With any luck, the only people who will lose power will be able to say how glad they are they installed that generator or gas fireplace or wood stove… So far only 3-4 inches. I think all hell is supposed to break loose tomorrow.
        Re your book, I have to say, I do have some idea what went into it, including the attention to printing and design. It’s really quite lovely even aside from the poems!

        • About the book, thank you very much.

          You’ve reminded me of a time, a few years ago, when I was living in New Hampshire. We lost electricity for 3 days. The L.L. bean camp lighting products came in handy… we learned you can make coffee, oatmeal, even shrimp scampi on a propane stove, and boil water to wash dishes and anything else, even as you hunker down in one room so it keeps you warm…the old transistor radio had news, even the mind works entirely differently. It’s smart to have bottled water (and plenty of wine.) And you go to bed really early! I was not a blogger at that time, so withdrawal from the internet was not tested. It sounds like you have it pretty well under control. Bonne chance!

  8. There’s but one problem with youth–they haven’t learned that everything is a devouring struggle.
    There’s but one problem with old age–the struggle finally wears you down.

    But given the above, I’d much rather be old.

    Happy Birthday, dear Cynthia (2 days in advance, I know!)

    • I have heard people wishing they could be 20…30…40…even 50…again. My instinctual response is: Been there. Done that. Thank you, dear Prospero—for the wisdom, and the good wishes.

      • Of course I wish I could be 300 again, but alas certain things are not possible. But if I can be permitted to give you a word of advice, don’t pass on the cakes and the Baked Alaskas till you are over 275–gee, that was more than a word, but rhetoric is often slippery like that.

        • Ah, if you were 300 again you could relive all the wonders of the Victorian Era….but as you say, some things are not possible. And you’re right: one should not pass on the cakes and Baked Alaska as long as one is toothsome enough. I do wonder what you must have done about toothsomeness, say, after age 275, and before the marvel of dental implants. I imagine that if you couldn’t eat your cake, you could still have it, seemingly forever.

          • You jest, surely, but you hit upon a philosophical point of the ontolgy of chewing. Canines and incisors aside, this is a wonderfully trenchant subject. Maybe some of your readers are dentists. Some may even want to chew the fat with us.

            • I once wondered what would ever cause a normal child to say (or think)…when I grow up, I want to be a dentist. I still wonder.

              New Entry (for our once imagined and yet to be written aphoristic compendium) : Dentists don’t do poetry.

              • I think they want to be dentists mainly for the laughing gas.

                I’m glad you are still working on the devil’s dental dictionary (2016 edition).

  9. May I use this particular posting to wish you every happiness for the commemoration of the momentous event occurring on this day, namely, the 31st anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. And… Happy Birthday to yourself as well! (P.S. – it’s already the 24th where I live – so get out that ice cream maker and make some Voluptuous Vanilla!)

    • Ah..I had forgotten that about Winston Churchill (if I ever knew it…)..and thank you so much for the happy wishes. It’s nice knowing that it’s the 24th where you live; it makes me feel like I can celebrate for two days in a row. Good suggestion about the ice cream. I might really live it up and make pistachio!

  10. Cynthia I love this. I resonate with much of what you write despite my limited understanding. Your birthday, the life path &(mine too), the desire to live a monk-life now as the ego falls to the overriding gift of faith. Just beautiful.

  11. I just wandered back over, coffee cup to hand, to wish you ‘Happy Birthday’ on your actual day. Did the snow storm land or miss you Cynthia – I have seen Lisa’s post about her inundation, but not yet heard anything from your neck of the woods. Any way, whether you are snowed in, snowed out or snowed under [not that one I hope] have a most wonderful day, I hope to hear you spent it doing something that brought you immense pleasure, hilariously impractical gaiety or at least quiet satisfaction. Much love my friend! xo

    • How very sweet of you,Pauline. I’m happy to say the snowstorm didn’t come this far north; we already have enough snow from previous storms! But the folks here are used to a lot of snow and tend to make quick work of moving and clearing it. It’s a beautiful, crisp and bright sunny day today. I am spending it quietly with my pets–who have no idea it’s a special day since all their days are special—and enjoying many expressions of happy wishes, by phone, cards, and even some chocolates and flowers. (The flowers came with an apology that it was not possible to get tulips here, at this time of year….tulips being my favorite 🙂 ) At my age I have known all those kinds of celebrations you describe; it’s all good. Thank you for wandering back with your good wishes, and love to you too. ❤

  12. Indeed, divesting actually feels more fun than all that fevered acquiring, yes? Thinking of that particular one who would treasure something–a favoured book, an old LP–and seeing her pleasure. I gave an old Flanders and Swann record to a young woman as her wedding gift, knowing how often she’d repeated some ditties of theirs, and she was ecstatic. What more can we cherish now than lots of that honest air you so appropriately name, and walks, and a cat or dog perhaps, and books and more books–and glad we delicately circumvented another anniversary without having to blow out anything…..many happy returns of the day, dear friend.

    • “…delicately circumvented another anniversary without having to blow out anything…” Priceless!!
      Given your recent clearing-out of the cubbyholes you must be feeling many of the satisfactions of divestiture; and isn’t it great when you can give away a treasure to someone who also thinks it’s a treasure! We’ve been there; now we are here. I so appreciate your friendship, Lance. Deep calls unto deep….and thank you for the good wishes today.

  13. Happy birthday, Cynthia. “Winter’s honest air” is exactly what I was thinking, but not so clearly and quilted so warmly as with this poem, when I was out walking the dog this afternoon. This is a lovely personification and it makes me wonder is the summer air the opposite? So much to savour and ogle in this poem.

  14. Until I opened this blog and listened to your beautiful poem and read your ensuing fan mail I didn’t know that it was your b’day on Jan 24. So happy belated b’day! I just let mine slip past and only celebrate the milestones with ‘0’ on the end – even they seem to roll around rather fast. But you know you still have a child in you if you enjoy the puddles – out for a walk no child can resist a puddle frozen or unfrozen.

    • So true about puddles and the child, Jane. The birthdays do seem to come faster all the time. Heck, so do the seasons, the days (if I can remember which one it is now!), the weeks…but then, numbers were never my forte, so I don’t think of them much, being more of a word person. Thank you for your kind words..

  15. Okay Miss Cynthia now how can I be so late to the party? I’m so sorry – did you know that I was be the one toting along the Champagne, a beautiful bouquet of Spring flowers and it wouldn’t be the same without enjoying a few chocolates too!! Don’t worry that cake you spotted at Shop n’ Save is waiting for you to sample, it has your name written all over it!! Happy Birthday my friend and many, many wishes for a most wonderful year.
    The gridelin sky sounds perfect for the night that closed in on your celebration – hope you winked at the star to let “them” and your “dearest” know, you totally got it on that beautiful and quiet walk home. Fondest wishes my friend Cynthia ~

    • Funny you should mention spring flowers…tulips are my favorite flower, and of course nearly impossible to find in January in Maine. But my sister got on the internet and now I am looking at a beautiful cobalt blue vase of yellow tulips as I type this. Heaven! I also had birthday cake….the leftovers of which I am still enjoying at breakfast time. So…the simple and the beautiful things are what it’s all about. And most of all, wonderful friends—like you, Mary. Thank you so much!

      • Your flowers sound beautiful, a perfect combination of colors – cobalt blue paired and yellow. Yes, Spring has arrived at your doorstep!! Did I tell you our Daffodils are up two-to-three inches and with temps expected in the 70’s the next several days, well they’ll grow another couple in no time. Have a wonderful weekend!!

  16. This made me chuckle with delight as your poems so often do. I was thinking of doing my capstone Linguistics assignment on the way you make mischief in your poems, but I think not: studying to deadlines so often takes the joy out of things.

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