How to Survive a Hospital Stay
Young at Heart? Not Me

ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Lines on Retirement, after Reading Lear

By David Wright

Avoid storms. And retirement parties.
You can’t trust the sweetnesses your friends will
offer, when they really want your office,
which they’ll redecorate. Beware the still
untested pension plan. Keep your keys. Ask
for more troops than you think you’ll need. Listen
more to fools and less to colleagues. Love your
youngest child the most, regardless. Back to
storms: dress warm, take a friend, don’t eat the grass,
don’t stand near tall trees, and keep the yelling
down—the winds won’t listen, and no one will
see you in the dark. It’s too hard to hear
you over all the thunder. But you’re not
Lear, except that we can’t stop you from what
you’ve planned to do. In the end, no one leaves
the stage in character—we never see
the feather, the mirror held to our lips.
So don’t wait for skies to crack with sun. Feel
the storm’s sweet sting invade you to the skin,
the strange, sore comforts of the wind. Embrace
your children’s ragged praise and that of friends.
Go ahead, take it off, take it all off.
Run naked into tempests. Weave flowers
into your hair. Bellow at cataracts.
If you dare, scream at the gods. Babble as
if you thought words could save. Drink rain like cold
beer. So much better than making theories.
We’d all come with you, laughing, if we could.

David Wright

David John Murray Wright was born in South Africa in 1920. He became deaf at age 7, a result of scarlet fever. At 14, he emigrated to England. He worked during his life as a translator, editor, biographer, freelance writer and published eight books of poetry. He died in 1994.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: My Eightieth Year


Stiking words. I'd like to weave flowers in my hair. I had to laugh when I thought about what my kids would say if they caught me running naked into the tempests, ha, ha, very tempting in the literal, challenging in the poetic.

I will say I have loved retirement. I do exactly what I want almost every moment of the day. I do worry a bit about what the unknown future holds, including whether I will have enough money. I can relax and love others more, especially children.

Oh wonderful. I've done it all, but I'd do all that again in a second. Passion...wonderful stuff.

I think if I ran raked in the storm I would have jokes told about me on Letterman's late night show.

My typos are getting more frequent and my attention span less. Of course I meant to type the word naked and not raked.

You have great taste in poetry, which is to say I like the poems you choose. This one is another favorite. Powerful, mordant and humorous.

Absolutely wonderful! I loved every line of it and am now inspired to be more spontaneous--probably not run naked, though. Anyway I haven't been able to run for decades.

A can't run anywhere anymore, much less naked in a storm. But it's the thought that counts. Wonderful poem.

Great verse

"In the end, no one leaves
the stage in character"

We no doubt become more human as our vanity diminishes and dies

What I fear most: the worst coming out in me; behaviors never seen by my family; being rude, frustrated, angry. This is what I saw in my father, though he was a kind man. I fear turning into a person I don't admire, someone who is not the real me. In the end, no one leaves the stage in character--yes, this is what I fear.

If you can't run naked on unsteady old legs anymore, you can still run naked in the storm in your mind and heart!

Stay strong!

Happy Women's Day

It reminded me of the old "Dance like nobody's watching / Love like you've never been hurt / Sing like nobody's listening / Live like it's heaven on earth" and all its different versions. Wish I were a lot less inhibited than I am.

Anyway, Happy Women's Day!

I love the poem! My favorite thing about being "retired" is the entry on my schedule for Reading from 3:00-5:00 every day!

That is so funny!

Terrific poetic advice. I got a kick out of "don't eat the grass."

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