Poetry December 2006

On Being Fifty-Something

after Po Chü-i

From thirty to forty, you are distracted
by the five lusts, which I don’t need to go into.
From seventy to eighty, you’re prone
to a hundred diseases or more.

Who can remember their names,
or the ones of friends who’ve gone
and died on you? But, from fifty to sixty,
you’re free of all that.

Grief doesn’t know where you live yet,
only gravity, the body starting to sag
under the weight of memories that,
like extra pounds around the middle,

you can’t seem to lose. At the theater, you doze,
your eyelids curtains that refuse to stay raised.
Suddenly, you’re the director of a play
about to begin. Time: no time like the present.

Place: a room you think you recognize.
On the desk, a typewriter squats like a toad,
waiting for a tasty word to devour.
The wall’s the wrong color, too cheerful,

but its painted muslin quivers:
from backstage someone tries the door,
which refuses to give. How young you were
when such bright shabbiness was yours,

how like a desert full of dream.

Presented by

Debora Greger's most recent book of poems is Western Art (2004). She teaches at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In