When I was a baby I had my mama,
and she was sweet and loves me still.
When I was a boy I had my toys
and I played with them till all were gone.
When I was a lad I had my dreams
of sleek cars and voluptuous girls.
When I was a young man
I worked to make the lad’s dreams real,
and though the cars were pudgy
and the women complicated,
moments of dreaming did become true.
When I was a working man I had pride in success
and fulfillment in shouldering society.
When I was a thinking man I knew
my only real successes were those nobody saw,
and that society is a boneyard of illusions
and an anthill of acquisition.
When I was a redundant man
I had irrelevant wisdom
and near perfect invisibility,
and, boy, was I ever stupid!
I was filled with memories
and occupied nearly none.
When they told me I was an old man:
I still felt like a working man
who wanted to save the world;
I still felt like a lad
who could delight in adventure and romance,
though now such dreams are only nostalgia
instead of heated anticipation;
I still felt like a boy
who wanted to play with intriguing toys;
And I have the luck of a baby
whose sweet mother loves him still.
30 August 2016
Weren’t they all survivors? The baby of his random gene mix and parents’ geography and status? The boy of his oedipal crisis; the lad of hidden dreams he knew were guilty? In his work the man looked to his achievement but had to whistle in the dark of his short falls. Wisdom came when he no longer denied the underside. But with wisdom came new denials, because it was never final. Illusions still sprouted, refinements of that baby’s yawps. The grandpappy of all the survivors is consciousness. He’s last in line, still spinning material for nostalgia and misstepping like a beginner. Then the call comes from his carcass. “Time for your last words, Gramps.” The old boy, never a fan of brevity, digs into Tennyson for an ultimate splurge of wishful-thinking:
“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”