When I was a child, the elderly frightened me.
They were the withered ones near death. Their faces
shriveled around their skulls like prunes on pits
All the rivers of the world had gouged their skin,
and their spidery legs were webbed with bruised veins.
Once, a woman’s watering eyes glared
at me with pools of fire, and I saw myself
reflected there like a fly stuck in that burning.
But now, my body’s singing stutters in pain,
and the waterways of time sculpt my face.
The web tightens its net. The future shrinks,
but each moment swells with a fullness of past
I never could have guessed. I imagine an end
so sated with life that I drop out of time
like ripe fruit to the earth. I imagine
a moment so wide that I spread from my body
and embrace everything like the sky.
But lullabies are easy in times of peace,
and lately I search the eyes of the old for the white
burn of a mind defying the body’s betrayals,
for a humor and kindness free among the ruins,
for a glimpse of spirit beneath the flesh that sloughs
like velvet on antlers, a spirit almost visible,
chiseled with pain, tempered in the fire of this world.