FIFTY – a poem
by: Dustin Joy
I hurt my back today, brushing my teeth.
To tell the truth, it’s not a thing,
I thought a person could do.
The mechanics are obscure.
It certainly never happened when I was
Praise be to ibuprofen.
The only lasting injury was to my pride.
In the cockpit, my handsome
year-old co-pilot and my pretty
year-old flight attendant share an exuberant laugh.
I say hello and smile. The laugh dissipates into the ether.
I do the math. Twenty-three plus Twenty-one equals
They are properly solicitous
of their old Captain.
They inquire about my day, and my wife,
and the weather in Santa Fe.
But they don’t tell me what was
I stop to to talk to my daughter’s roommate,
to compliment her editorial
in the college paper,
the one about cultural appropriation.
I sense a kindred spirit, her fight so like
the liberal causes I championed, when I was
My brilliant, fierce, and caustic essays beat down apartheid (at least in Galesburg, IL).
But she is late, and on her way to class,
and distracted by a major crisis,
involving her Instagram feed.
Respectful and deferential, she holds the door for me as we go out,
as if I was an old man, and not a fellow warrior
in the battle against injustice.
I think I spent too much of my youth being
I followed the rules, I aimed to please,
I got good grades, and mostly abstained from
I kept my powder dry, I lay in wait,
I built a nest egg, and I collected data.
I awaited the hour when I could use my competence,
my acumen, my knowledge, to awe, to amaze, to impress.
I would grab the world by the lapels and shake it.
And now I am really
with a larder fully stocked
with wisdom and pertinent experience.
And now that I am ready it seems that
the treasure I assiduously cached, a penny at a time,
in the mattress of life, has been the victim of inflation.
It is a Cabbage Patch Doll after 1985.
It is a buggy whip in 1930.
And if you’re not also
you don’t even know what that means,
just like I don’t know what LMFAO means.
I should probably look that up
or stop using it.
There is little call for what I have accumulated
and it’s value seems to diminish day by day.
I wish I had read Shakespeare again when I was
and heeded Rosalind’s words to Phoebe;
“Sell when you can, you are not for all markets.”
and even the god-damned toothbrush
has turned against me.