Rob A Mackenzie, fine poet, recently posted a set of Guidelines for Middle-Aged Poets. I thought it was funny, but also an interesting challenge. Now that I’m well past middle age (I get my State Pension from Sunday) could I write something which did all (or most) of the things Rob said I shouldn’t do?
Well, I done it. Literature it ain’t, but I had fun writing it. And it took my mind off the nettle stings.
An Old Man Looks Back
To Middle Age
When I was just middle-aged I never thought
about the length of time before me. It’s all right
for the Arctic Kaisers, I suppose, but I’m talking about
my generation, the Who Am I people, the ones
who used to drink and drive and drive and drink
but now just drive. I used to be a drinker
but it’s all right now – in fact it’s a gas. That’s me
in the mugshot, the one I stole from Dorian Gray,
flattering to the point where resemblance will pass
for identity. My partner looks at it when we make love.
She says she feels no physical attraction for the man I am,
but the man I was can evoke the odd pleasurable riff.
Time was, when my words alone made groupies flock
to the stage door of the Poetry Library. Nie wieder.
Not with this gut that overhangs everything, salad-proof,
proof only of puddings extravagantly necked, settled, paunched.
I was skinny once. Remember Priestley? Laburnum Grove?
Ate bleedin bananas every night on stage, got applause for my exit.
Good I was, course theatre’s real entertainment, not yer X-Box
trickery. Smoke and mirrors. Same with poetry. All these newcomers
reading like they’ve had a crisis of the vowels. Pathetic. Mayakowsky
didn’t know what he was missing. Who done that wonky tower?
The name Tatlin springs to mind, but then it often does. Samizdat
journals, endlessly leaking ink on the hands, but if I wear my shades
I can’t see the stains. I run my inky fingers through my silver hair,
remember black, remember never combing. I open the drawer
and take out the shirt with the button-down collar, the shirt I realise
is twenty years old. I almost start to sing Happy Birthday but stop in time.