Posts Tagged ‘old age’

in old age

a man’s teenage pain
returns by devious paths
to haunt him — just one
final rebellion left
— the act of remembering!

A week ago I had my sixtieth birthday. Ageing seems to be a constant theme of this blog. Employing a title like this, ‘in old age’, does seem a bit melodramatic of me. I dreamed last night I stood accused of being able to alter someone else’s reality just by the act of remembering. I felt innocent. But at the same time, I did in fact feel as though I had engaged in some kind of subversive act, simply by allowing a certain thought into my head — which was the memory of someone named Howard Pollock, whom I knew for a couple of years in the mid-seventies.



such gentle restraint — 
the tiger’s velveted paw
enfolding my hand

My maternal grandmother used to figure importantly in my madness in the eighties, as someone I felt I could trust completely. For some reason lost to me now, I used to equate her in my imagination with a tiger. Now my mother is nearly ninety, and I’m often struck how much she resembles her own mother. So I’m guessing this dream refers to the increasing physicality of my relationship with my mother — I was never remotely demonstrative in a physical way with her, throughout my adult life, but the last couple of years I have tended to make sure I kiss her goodbye and embrace her warmly, every time we part, thinking it could easily be the last time I see her.

I am part

mountainous terrain —
incomprehensible tongue
— deepest mystery
of the human soul — lovers
here, now — nowhere, never — look!

Difficulty getting back in my stride after writing no poem yesterday morning. But the effort this morning has paid off I think. Very pleased with this. I particularly like the title, which I struggled to find. The opposite of ‘I am part’ would be ‘I am whole’, and wholeness is supposed to be the goal of the Jungian path (to which I am pretty well committed). But ‘I am part’ suggests being ‘part of’ a greater whole. Part of a pair of lovers. Part of a mystery. Part of the human race. There was a mystical euphoria for me in writing this poem. It may be derivative, since the final line of the poem clearly recalls the euphoric last words spoken by King Lear in the play by Shakespeare. I dreamed last night of my teenage gay lover, who in fact introduced me to the wonders of King Lear, which I still love, almost more than any other single work of literature. I was cradling him against my breast in the dream, in a way that recalls my embrace of my aged mother in real life last time I said goodbye to her on Friday. She is getting old and confused and, in order to get through to her, I am getting more physically confident to embrace her than I have ever been in the past. My dream last night also included quite literally a scene in the mountains where I seemed to be in France and unable to understand the language being spoken (in real life my French is so basic as to be practically useless). I feel this poem hangs together as a poem, which is more than I usually expect. As I explain on the ‘about’ page, I write as therapy not as art.


memories stack up
in the brain — serving what end?
— what purpose? — futile
humanity cannot help
hoping to be remembered

What a strange thing it is, to be simultaneously both the person being remembered and the person doing the remembering! Does identity consist in doing the remembering or in being remembered? I’m led to reflect along these lines both by my mother’s gradual decline into forgetful old age, in waking life, and by a dream last night of filing away bulky sheets of A4 journals into a lever arch file.


the line’s straight (you’d think)
— we are born, we die — but God
uses it to draw
a crazy illustration
of Time’s circularity

I dreamed I was a character in a children’s book by C.S.Lewis. I had grown old without noticing, and was now an old man. My time had all but run out, while somehow I had been imagining it was only a test run. Or only a story.


seventies heartthrob
David Soul — look at him now
barely able to
walk — so old, so old — more like
a wizened tree than a man

I don’t really have much to add to this by way of explanation. Dreaming of the name Soul must certainly have been suggested by the chapter of the book I’m reading by Charles Nicholl called The Chemical Theatre. It’s about the influence of 16th century contemporary alchemical publications upon the imaginations and writings of Shakespeare, Jonson and Donne. I was reading about Donne yesterday, with examples from his poetry. There was much talk of souls.

The theme of old age — or at any rate late middle age — i.e. the age I am now — cropped up yesterday in the course of my delivering a testimony of lived experience of paranoia as part of my job. I succeeded quite well, better than usual when I do these talks, in getting across the general shape of my life (as it appears to me), as being largely a story of homelessness and mental illness with just a little coda of the most recent ten years spent being ‘normal’ with a job and a relationship. My audience, during questions, kindly asked me how difficult must it have been to adjust to the ways of society at such a late age.

Arising out of my blog two days ago about Stendhal, I was reflecting that he died aged 59, the age I am now. Shakespeare and Beethoven both died in their late fifties too (actually Shakespeare was 52). In that sense, I am an old man.

‘Great Man’

I still have a thirst
for glory, even as I
approach old age with
nothing accomplished — demons
never really die — they sleep

The truth of what I’m saying here, is amply demonstrated just merely by my reaction to seeing the poem’s title ‘Great Man’ published online. How much irony do I intend? Are the capitals ironic? If so, isn’t it overkill to have inverted commas as well as capitals? Am I even being ironic at all? Is there such a thing as a great man? What’s the difference between legitimate ambition and deluded grandiosity? These thoughts follow seamlessly from yesterday’s post about Henri Beyle. He understood all about the desire to leave one’s mark. He fought for Napoleon and bought into the Napoleonic myth. He had fire and drive in his writing, and knew he did, and actively sought to be remembered. My dream last night was of finding myself sharing a sofa with Patsy Hage I feel quite sure that the sofa symbolises a desire to be a guest on a chat show. At some level, I really see myself as a potential guest. At some level, I take myself that seriously as a writer. Which is fine. But if nothing else, it’s sad that the chat show sofa is my measure of success.