Part 4 – old age


Starquakes on the Sun

I don’t know anything about old age.
           So they talked to me in metaphors.
                          They had taken the few poor acres and made them fruitful,
                          filled them with the buzzing of bees.
The mountain had served them well.

I don’t know anything about old age.
          I hope to find out.
                         I knew the old lady over the road.
                         Dad became old. I didn’t want him to. His hand
started shaking when he was opening the fridge. He started leaving his food at meals.
                         Then Mum became old.
                         My husband became very old.

I don’t know what it’s like to be old.
          Many people I know
                         would have liked to have found out
                         but never did.

And they looked up at the mountain.
          Every morning they had looked up at the grey
                         knuckles on the horizon
                         changing colour from moment to moment.

I don’t know anything about old age.
          So they told me a story.
                         It is not in the folds of the skin: forget about those.
                         It is not in the weakness of bones or muscles: you
                         have inner strength.
                         It is not in a fading of mind: for better is wisdom.

It is like the children playing on the banks of the river:
          one said to another
                         ‘Let’s throw our toys in the water.’
                         The other did so, then looked at her friend,
                         who smirked, held on to her toys and ran away.

She stood on the bank, her cheeks wet with tears.
          A voice said ‘Child why do you cry?’
                         It was an old woman.
                         ‘Don’t be afraid, child,’ she said. ‘Here,
                         let me dry your tears. Tell me
                         what’s the matter.’

And so she told her. ‘Child,’ she replied, ‘it doesn’t matter about that girl,
          or what you have lost. What matters
                         is you have been true.
                         Tell the river what happened. Tell
                         the river you are happy for her to have your toys.

What I can tell you is that I who speak to you am your self
          as you will be. You will reach a ripe age. You
                         will see that your truth
                         has protected you.
                         And then, you will understand.’

Old Age – A piece of music

Picture by Dean Pasch

Poem by Josephine Dickinson

Music by Sandra Hollstein



Why Do We Age?

Is it the moon, the sun,
the pull of Mars or Jupiter,
the movement of the great whales
as they migrate beneath the waves?

Not even Walt Whitman could tell us
although he could tell us more
about youth and living and loving
than anyone else with just a couplet.

Remember “Unscrew the locks from the doors,
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs”?

And what can I tell you about growing old?
That I’ve been to the circus and I’ve seen
the big top from the inside and know
that the sky of stars inside the tent is the circus?

That there are things I am giving up
as I move toward my 67th birthday:
things like worrying about silence and flatulence,
the reworking of old puzzles,
the problems God sets before all of us?

That once in an alley the word “fuck”
hung in the air between me and three men
and echoed like a woman’s scream in the dark,
repeating itself over and over in pain?

That once I had pneumonia and I started
coughing, and the coughing rolled through me,
and lifted me first and then dropped me
like a slow jack-in-the-box?

That my mother loved to hold my hand
when we were walking to the park
and it broke her heart when I told her
I was too old to do that?

That you can smell the human gases
coming off of dead bodies: hydrogen sulfide,
methane, and cadaverine,
yes, sweet cadaverine?

That my father loved to listen to me
talk to him in English even though
he didn’t understand a word?

That once I sat next to a dying friend
who kept weeping and whispering something
about sand and water that didn’t make sense?

That all I could do for him was sing a song
that I hoped he remembered, something
about hoping that all his rambling
had brought him love and joy?

These are the things I can tell you about,
but these aren’t the things
anyone has questions about,
and I’m not sure what they have
to do with aging.

Koyunbaba – II Mosso – A piece of music

Picture by Deborah Scott

Poem by John Guzlowski

Music by Timur Iskandarov




My young hands held in his.
Soft. Moss on a worn sofa
left in the garden. A blanket

once white, now grey.
Wrinkles and veins. This
bureau was his,

where he marked his football coupon
and watched the aging fire
fold and drape, each match

chosen with dotage. Here,
he wrote letters to family
back in Ireland,

kept clean hankies
in the top drawer and
apologised for crying.

Until it’s my time to go – A piece of music

Picture by Eric Armitage

Poem by Kevin Reid

Music by Ben Fisher



That old soft music

Cold morning mists envelop the world
An old woman, alone in my room,

I shell walnuts
as the wounded moments tick away.

Your words like shadows hang from branches
With every cell inside of me I listen for the wind.

My naked heart full of metaphor
hears the slow rhythm of raindrops.

That old soft music beckons,
past wounds are reopened.

I count the days on a wooden abacas
until the sun shines upon us in the same bed.

I gather up empty walnut shells
crushed and broken–

The rain on window panes
will soon be rivers to the sea.

Herstory – A piece of music

Picture by Steve Karn

Poem by Sharmagne Leland-St. John

Music by Sandra Hollstein



Napping in a chair

Yesterday seagulls laughed
under the storm clouds caught
in mountains behind the sea.

As I ambled through a plaza,
I heard someone playing piano
stop and start the music over.

People ate lunch, drank coffee.
The rain did not fall on them or
anyone. The ships slid slowly by.

I noticed these things. I did not
notice other things. I thought of
you, I am not sure why. I walked.

I heard sea gulls, a piano, the sea.
I listened for echoes of your voice.
I remembered something you said.

In the water next to me, fish swam.
Only faint shadows revealed them.
Two lovers sat under trees conversing.

I thought of someone. I don’t recall who.

The Unexpected Breath, Expected – A piece of music

Picture by Jools L. Sewell

Poem by Michael Dickel

Music by Karin Blüml & Dean Pasch


KatOld Age Part 4

The Winter Greys

With age you become
a Buddhist, just watching

the panoply of life go by––
which it does so quickly.

The spring flowers, the autumn
trees, the winter greys.

The piles of leaves gone, then
the bare leaves, the open sky.

You cease to wonder, or care
if you will see the next season.

And there is joy in this.

Or you become consumed
with anger, your life, your

every mistake rolling
through your memory.

Memory can be a curse.
Those you loved die

and die, and die, and die.
And you think, “Who of us

will be next? And almost hope
it will be you.

Older – A piece of music

Picture by Katerina Dramitinou

Poem by Jane Blue

Music by Steve Karn




An old man recounts
The cracks in the pavement youth
He never lived through
Yet never left

A tug boat pulls out memories
Of Gdansk’s palimpsest harbour
Across choppy waves
In his faltering thoughts
Chopin’s waltz in A Minor
Dances with seagulls

Wings displace wind
Sunlight sneaks through
Cover of cloud
Catching the eye

Of one seagull’s intent on more
On more than feathers
Or departure or arrival

His mother once told him
Without dreams his soup
Would taste bitter
Without love his life
Would too

The old man retires to bed
With his tugboat and a glint
In his eyes
For his beloved Gdansk

The waltz of a youth
That haunts him
Even now

Tugboat Memories – A piece of music

Picture by Dean Pasch

Poem by Dean Pasch

Music by Tamir Hendelman


One thought on “Part 4 – old age

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