Author's Note It’s early March, still winter here in Western Massachusetts, but the days are getting longer, and it may not be too early to think about spring. Or maybe it is, so I offer a poem about anger (not mine), forgetting (definitely mine), and winter in the land of the dead (more Brueghel’s than mine).
We went around the room, responding to the question
“What makes you angry about getting old?”
They called on me first. I didn’t know what to say.
I’m glad to be alive with my wife of many years,
glad to be near my sons and granddaughters
in a lovely place blessed with hills and trees, rivers,
lakes, music, theater, dance. I don’t really go to anger,
not about aging anyway. Who would I be angry at?
Nature? A God I don’t believe in?
Sure, I guess I’m a little sad that I don’t hear well,
that I’m almost blind in one eye, but mad? No.
I’m afraid I’ve disappointed the nice lady
who runs the meeting, that I’ve been too mild,
that maybe what I see as stoicism, even courage
in the face of challenges comes across as unwillingness
to engage. Then a woman speaks up.
“I am filled with rage!” she shouts, “And I love my anger!
It has saved lives and brought down tyrants!”
She goes on, listing the many things that anger her,
poverty and racism, the rise of white supremacy in America
and around the globe, homelessness, the way old women
become invisible. Finally another lady interrupts –
“You’re only supposed to say one thing.”
The angry woman shuts down. No amount of cajoling,
reassuring will get her to speak again.
She doesn’t come the next week, drops out of our project.
“I guess she was angry at us,” we whisper to each other.
Maybe we miss her a bit, maybe we’re glad she’s gone.
Her anger lingers at the doorway, a miasma of ill feeling, a mist
clinging to the back of our necks however hard we try to shrug it off.
It’s getting easy to forget,
like that poet’s name
on the tip of my tongue,
or really far from there,
somewhere in the memory
bin of my brain. I loved
his short lines, his strange
way of looking at ordinary things.
I loved how uncertain he was
in every poem, as though
one thing could
quickly become another,
how he came from a country
thick with soup and folktales,
brooms that came alive
while the cottage slept,
a land of cats and hills and snow.
I waited in the dark
for that kind of dream.
Not that it was ever a dream,
more like a vision you get
bent over the page, your very blood on fire.
Winter in the Land of the Dead
The river freezes yellow brown
beneath a dying sky.
Black birds in skeletal trees.
Hunger seeps between branches.
On the snow by the bird trap
they peck at useless earth.
Far away a city
rises from the flatlands.
Towers and spires pierce the mist.
Beneath slanted roofs, the dead
have come out to play.
They skate along jaundiced ice,
a dozen shadows mimicking the starving crows.
©2020 Steve Klepetar
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