THE PLEASURES OF AGE
Du Nachbar Gott
So what if the neighbors hate you?
(In my case it’s worse: they pass
without saying a word. What joy
that this stains still vulnerable cells
as much as light drizzle scars stones!)
Nothing matters; that’s why I still work.
Poems none read, translations none want;
I’m prodigious as Nature is with her seeds
and almost as indifferent. Some land on rock,
others on thin soil; yet even if a few sprout
and delight, fame won’t cure uncommon colds
and I’ll still walk to the store with a limp.
(Bach is the music One plays in black holes.
This makes no sense to those below sixty
and the odd useless for whom it’s a “fact”
are Cain-strangers.) False-God-fearing neighbors,
if I lay shattered on the kitchen floor,
none of you would help me with the pieces,
yet I’m not shattered at all; I read,
write, play Mozart on the piano;
A good old age—an oxymoron?
One breaks down. One becomes whole.
One travels less. One travels more
via one’s own private jet, a good book.
Is a leaf on a swept sidewalk lonely?
Silence is gregarious; no, I’m not alone
for Somebody listens with infinite gravity;
my Neighbor forever the day I am crushed.
—from Rattle #37, Summer 2012
Thomas Dorsett: “One afternoon, over 40 years ago, I got on the subway on my way to the New School in New York City. I had signed up for a course in poetry taught by the great Jose Garcia Villa. My brother had warned me that he often severely criticized student work. I was very nervous. A little while later, he read some student poems and, true to form, demolished them. Then he came to mine. After reading it, he looked up, and asked Thomas Dorsett to identify himself. I stood up—Here it comes, I thought; my poem must be especially bad. ‘You will become a poet,’ he said. I just stared in amazement until he told me to sit down. That night I thought that I must do something on the side so I can afford to eat. So I became a physician, too. After 60, I added a third ‘p’ and have become an avid amateur pianist.”