Not Like Them – Those Other Old People

Growing Old with Trees

Tom Delmore, a poet himself, sends me poems by others from time to time. Two that have been waiting longer than they should to be posted here are about trees and and the men who spent a lifetime knowing them. Take a listen.

By Wendell Berry

I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don't think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
- no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new—who has known it
before?—and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new.
The clouds are rarely absent from our sky
over this humid valley, and there is a sycamore
that I watch as, growing on the riverbank,
it forecloses the horizon, like the years
of an old man. And you, who are as old
almost as I am, I love as I loved you
young, except that, old, I am astonished
at such a possibility, and am duly grateful.

[From Leavings published in 2010]

By W. S. Merwin

Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world

[From The Moon in Morning published in 2014]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: We Never Knew When to Quit


Beautiful poems that sum up becoming old perfectly "The dry grass whispering in your shade" and "Time is neither young nor old, but simply new." touched me.

The old hackney'd phrase "Today is the first day of the rest of your life", seems to fit here. Do the best that you can with the ability you have and don't compare your 100% to someone else's 100%.

Lovely, relevant, and I'll return to read them several more times.

As a poet, I enjoyed these. You can also see a Bill Moyers interview with Wendell Berry on Moyers' website.

Treasure what you've got.

Absolutely lovely poems. Have we talked about the beautiful sadness of old age? The part that remembers life many years ago, remembers people we love laughing who are ghosts now. We walk among ghosts always, happy and sad, that others cannot see or hear.

Lovely comment, Joey.

Wow! Joey, you've got the lovely first line(s) of a poem--

"We walk among ghosts always. . . that others cannot see or hear."

I love it!

Barbara Y.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)