—for a friend on the occasion of his seventy-something birthday
Now as you approach that swinging door
And think this day you’ve just arrived, before
You realize you’re also leaving seventy and more,
Do not be sad, and do not fear;
You get to keep this number for another year.
What’s in a number anyway? No more
Than abstract stuff enough to bore
To songlessness a moody troubadour
Or make a turnip shed a tear
Or take the rooster out of Chanticleer.
No, it’s not the numeral that we deplore
But tendencies of an outworn folklore
To make one seem a dinosaur
When it is perfectly, quite clear
To one’s own mind: “I’m not as I appear.”
In one’s own mind, one is eleven evermore:
One day a cowboy, next a sagamore,
Then a young blade barefoot on the shore
Lit up by love, crushed by a cruel sneer.
The feelings do not age, they persevere.
So let us spit the bitter in the cuspidor,
Immortalize the sweetness in a metaphor
And raise our voices in a great “Encore!”
This birthday thing’s a time for cheer,
A time for more than one more beer.
And if you come a little bit footsore,
Wearing a birthday suit unlike the one you wore
Into this life—this life that you adore—
So what? You are still you, still dear,
But best of all, you are still here.
(On Viewing Ceramic Poppies to Commemorate World War I, for sale, at the Tower of London)
Hard flowers try to bloom and grow
(but cannot tell what soft ones know
of how to live and how to die)
plugged in a tower’s moat gone dry,
a pretentious, gaudy memento.
The tourists come, the tourists go
to see the pottery poppy show.
What causes them to want to buy
Because they’re cooked-up in a studio?
And virtuous? (The quid pro quo
will go to charity).But who can justify,
however sentimental, hope to pacify
a bloody horrible hard woe
with hard flowers?
. HARD FLOWERS