Mimi Khalvati

Middle Age

There are those who are radiant confronting
death in cornflower blues and violets.
There are roofs that kneel to large shapes of sun
submissively as cows to the skies gait.
I protect myself from happiness, rooting
into the search for it, mourning its youth,
though it's the lesser courage that admits
to unhappiness, to gladness, the greater.
What did we vow we'd be in middle age? -
Young of course. Immortal. Assuming process
reversible by that effort of will
only gods possess, protean, promethean.
Knowing we'd die but not knowing how tired
we'd get, even of loving, how we'd fear
emotion. No one tells us. How we'd get
our second wind from death and even then
only those who are charmed, transformed by grace
we think a miracle - who knows what strength
it takes, who only sees those blue eyes bluer,
who only sees apparel. No one tells us
about middle age. Forget teeth, sight, hearing,
what about the heart? You'd think it a dumb
organ, stones in its well, a clobbered clock
not knowing moments from minutes, stone itself
I tell my heart to move, it doesn't. Look,
I say, what do you like out there, tail feathers?
It looks but doesn't see, sees but can't name.
It's middle-aged. I think of Keats and wonder
how one so young could feel it rich to die
till I remember illness, pain. And though
here I am healthy, knowing pain will pass,
from where I am I catch the drift of it -
a wind that blows the other way. Or rather,
doesn't blow but being ever more easeful,
makes me see, as if in a glassy surface
fingers dragged in the shallow of its wake.


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