FIFTY

 

 

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

 forty.

Praise be to ibuprofen.

The only lasting injury was to my pride.

 

 

In the cockpit, my handsome

 twenty-three 

year-old co-pilot and my pretty

 twenty-one 

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

Forty-four.

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

 so funny.

 

 

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

twenty 

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

fifty. 

I followed the rules, I aimed to please, 

I got good grades, and mostly abstained from

fun.

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

fifty, 

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

fifty 

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 

thirty 

and heeded Rosalind’s words to Phoebe;

“Sell when you can, you are not for all markets.”

Now I’m 

fifty

and even the god-damned toothbrush

has turned against me.