“On Hitting 70” by Albert Katz

Albert Katz


it was around my 70th birthday
that I realized I wasn’t 40 anymore

that the ballast which had kept me steady for so long
had shifted

that the people I conjured from my 20s
were no longer lithe carnal dynamos 
reanimated in ageless revisionist trysts

on my 70th birthday old friends started to call me
about dead comrades and lovers

eaten alive by colon cancer gaunt and in pain, dangling from a rope strung
over the bathroom door, foggy with drugs in an AIDS hospice abandoned,
cancer growing on the brain joking until near the end in agony  

bleeding by the side of a country road hit by a drunk kid too young to drive
who said he didn’t see the jogger being blinded by the sun and all

when I had reached 40
all those comrades
and lovers
were still alive and thought they’d live forever
unseemly curious about my status
whether my life was turning out as I had hoped

because at 40 
it was the time 
to take stock of such matters

and I think the consensus
was that if my life’s progress 
was not quite an A
it was certainly a solid B
or maybe B+

and whoosh
it has come to this
my career winding down
my spine slowly disintegrating
and now 
having accepted a retirement package 
the wonder is that I
still thought of myself as 40 
for so long

those few old remaining friends 
started calling again
apparently at 70
it is appropriate to reminisce about dead friends
and rate the arc of one’s life 
once again 

I don’t want to disappoint you
all of you
nonetheless let me be clear

fuck off

I have no intention to take stock
or embrace “my new phase”
or fade like the walking dead 
from some horror film
into the mist

or endlessly relive my youthful exploits with you
or join you in wandering aimlessly
for the last furlong 

I have reset
that is all
just reset 

and in all ways important
am really just 55

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019


Albert Katz: “Hoping to be a poet, I published some poems in long extinct magazines during my undergraduate years. But, instead, I ended up an academic, earning a Ph.D. in psychology. I have had a long, satisfying career as a research psychologist, publishing scientific papers on various topics in the processing of non-literal language and on accessing autobiographical memory, topics that find expression also in my poetry. I find the nuggets of some poems come easily—though, most usually for me, the easier the first draft the more difficult the subsequent re-workings. ‘On hitting 70’ was an aberration—once I accepted that my retirement as an academic was actually going to happen—both the first and later drafts moved smoothly.” (web)

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