To the woman in Starbucks: Aging man’s blues

To the lady who sat next to me, then inched her table away,
and to the table-movers to come:

I am sorry. It is this damn aging. I have smiled at babies
in their strollers, in the arms of mothers.

Now, I catch myself smiling at strangers.
You think it a kind of madness? But you see, somehow

I have developed a knack for emotional levitation.
Is it unsafe, this smiling into near and distant?

Look into my eyes, have they lost their piquancy?
Say hello. I am reasonable.

My skin is not elastic like yours, but neither is it green.
Shall I prefer green?

The flies at the patio door,
is it the sound of escaping effervescence they signal?

I’ve heard there is an old man smell.
Shall I shower more often, more vigorously?

“Heavenly days,” I heard this quaintness today.
A term for surprise or delight; is it the bugle of mortality?

And that lean and hungry look, does it suggest Cassius,
or those faces after the useless paint of morticians?

But now I have flooded myself with assumptions,
forgive me.

Perhaps one day, you will gently discover what aging means,
in the flying hair of young lovers racing.

And may you, earlier than late,
discover the beauty of 80-year-old friends.

In the mean time I will do you this kindness.
I will take the next number at the Medicentre.

I will comply, do what’s expected:
I will take my pills,

wear my pants high,
and go for pancakes on Tuesdays with men called Willard.


  1. Thanks, Stephen … you have captured so much here …
    FYI, I have started attending the local Salvation Army afternoon services, the music, object lessons and short sermon are a blessing and I just love being a part of the unfolding of the Kingdom of God! God bless you always! Meredith MacInnis

  2. Yes, you have captured much. And made me laugh and nearly cry. But this one thing I know: the moving of the table is not about you. It’s about her and how she filters the world. I think you know this too, we all do, but we still have to do the self-examination just in case our blind spot has grown. I think I shall write of all the insecurities that spring out of a widow considering eHarmony. I think it might read similar.

  3. I don’t know Steve – I have young people smiling at me. Mind you I have 10 years on you. I might have graduated from the table-moving stage to the smiling-at stage – I think there might be a poem in there somewhere too:)

  4. Ah Joyce, I will await that poem. It is curious and fascinating, the internal responses we have to simple external gestures, the assumptions, the sensitivities, the insecurities…endlessly fascinating. Thank you Joyce.

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