I wrote this poem nearly two months ago on the day before my 76th birthday, and I hadn’t read it again till last Wednesday night, when I performed it at the Troy Poetry Mission, a monthly open mic at O’Brien’s restaurant in Troy. In mid-reading, I thought Jeez, this is pretty good, so I decided to share it here.
Sunny and 75
A picture-perfect Sunday afternoon,
Sunny and seventy-five,
Just like the country song Joe Nichols sang
A few years back. But he was serenading
A gorgeous blonde, bikinied on a beach,
The picture of svelte perfection.
Jump cut to me in my garden,
Planting perennial tickseed to replace
The annuals that died or never quite took off.
The purple pansies, the pathetic cleome
That barely bloomed at all.
Sipping my gin and tonic as I dirty my hands,
At seventy-five, I’m far from perfect.
Still, the July sun caresses my bare shoulders
With its carcinogenic rays. Living dangerously,
I’ve skipped the sunblock. Too late to worry now.
The damage happened decades back
In wanton weekends on the sands of Fire Island.
And earlier still, in high school,
When I slathered my body with baby oil and iodine,
Held a metallic cardboard shield under my chin
To magnify the power of the sun.
All my friends were doing it.
Those were the years we cowered beneath our desks
In air raid drills, expecting nuclear annihilation
Before we reached adulthood.
Yet here I am, amazingly, at seventy-five,
On my knees, wallowing in dirt,
Unafraid of ticks. Cellulite on full display,
Set off by denim shorts and a purple tank top
I bought at Mountain Jam, no one watching
But my black chow mix Sirius. Drool drips
From his purple tongue as he guards me faithfully.
Seventy-five years old, and I feel fine.
The only thing I’ve given up is downhill skiing,
And even that, I may take up again. Never say never.
But early tomorrow morning, on the last day of July,
I’ll sneak across the border to the final quadrant of my life.
Somehow that’s scarier, but will I feel
Suddenly decrepit? Probably not.
I’ll hit the Y for dance and exercise,
Then swim out to the raft on Snyders Lake
And plunge feet first into the frigid spring-fed depths,
Grateful for the confidence I’ll surface
To see the beauty of the setting sun once more.
Update, September 30th
Since I wrote this poem two months ago:
- The tickweed I talked about planting totally died for no apparent reason.
- I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on my nose, and I’ll be having it operated on next week. So much for being frivolous about blowing off the need for sunscreen.
- The beach at Snyders Lake closed in late August, but I swam off the end of the boat ramp two days ago, and it was still amazingly warm.
I wrote this poem the night before Poets Speak Loud, a monthly open mic in Albany hosted by Mary Panza. Reading at open mics is a wonderful way of getting instant feedback that’s unfailingly positive. For extensive news about poetry events happening in the Capital Region, visit www.albanypoets.com. The site was created by Thom Francis, who keeps it faithfully updated and who happens to be my web designer.