To a Beginning Poet, Aged Sixty

By James Dickey
One man in a house
Consumed by the effort of listening
Sets down a worried phrase upon a paper.
it is poor, though it has come
From the table as out of a wall,
From his hand as out of his heart.
To sixty years it has come
At the same rate of time as he.
He cannot tell it, ever, what he thinks.
It is time, he says, he must
Be thinking of nothing but singing,
Be singing of nothing but love.
But the right word cannot arrive
Through the dark, light house of one man
With his savage hand on a book,
With a cricket seizing slowly on his ear:
One man in a house cannot hear
His ear, with his hair falling out from the quick.
Even to himself he cannot say
Except with not one word,
How he hears there is no more light
Than this, nor any word
More, anywhere: how he is drunk
On hope, and why he calls himself mad.
Weeping is steadily built, and does not fall
From the shadow sitting slowly behind him
On the wall, like an angel who writes him a letter
To tell him his only talent is too late
To tell, to weep, to speak, or to begin
Here, or ever. Here, where he begins.