Guest poem submitted by William Lucy:
(Poem #1647) Men at Forty
Men at forty Learn to close softly The doors to rooms they will not be Coming back to. At rest on a stair landing, They feel it moving Beneath them now like the deck of a ship, Though the swell is gentle. And deep in mirrors They rediscover The face of the boy as he practises tying His father's tie there in secret And the face of the father, Still warm with the mystery of lather. They are more fathers than sons themselves now. Something is filling them, something That is like the twilight sound Of the crickets, immense, Filling the woods at the foot of the slope Behind their mortgaged houses.
From "New and Selected Poems" (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1997). The Minstrels directory shows only two entries for Donald Justice, the later one in 2003. I only discovered him after his death in August, 2004, in the subsequent mini-biography in the New York Times Book Review. When I read his collected works, I was moved by the everyday "normalcy" of his themes, and the extraordinary depth of meaning he gave them through simple, yet exquisitely and intensely well-crafted, American verse. The poem I submitted was a particular favorite, probably because I first read it autumn as two forty-something October birthdays approached - my own, and that of a buddy of mine who had recently lured me back into reading classic literature and verse as an antidote for the ennui caused by writing banker's English 10 hours a day. (Thanks, E.) The opening stanza of this little poem perfectly captures the "gathering gloom" of middle-age. Speaking of birthday poems, I found #225, "Poem in October" by Dylan Thomas, the first time I googled into Wondering Minstrels; "his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine." By a coincidence, the last poem read last Saturday morning (3/05/05) on the WBAI-AM (New York) poetry program was also about time and age: a Yeats' mini-gem: "The Wheel." My submission was also a favorite because ...it's short!!! Maybe it was the fourth-grade nun having us compose autumn haikus with Magic Markers on maple leaves, but for some reason shorter poems seem all the more beautiful, intense and memorable for their brevity, and for the skill needed to squeeze the meter and meaning out of every syllable. (I drafted this submission before #1643, Stephen King's "IT" haiku, appeared on Sunday) With profound apologies to John Milton, it is just too darn hard to read Paradise Lost on the city bus at rush hour - believe me, I tried! I guess 10 hours a day of financial prose will turn anyone into a philistine - except Wallace Stevens. William Lucy.