Notes From The Seventh Decade

Here’s a riddle on the nature

of being blind:

the more I see the less I see.

It comes about like this:

I’m old. I know a lot. I see.

I paid my dues.

But what I can’t see

is this that’s part of me:

I can’t see the coarse white hair

growing just below my chin.

* * *

I can feel this hair, this misplaced

bristle from a hogback brush.

I feel but cannot see. They can.

All those young. They see that sticking point.

Now who is blind? I’m wiser than they.

I’m their leader in a sense.

They know they need to see

what I can see.

Yet they can see what I can’t, this palpitating

insult to my otherwise perfection of a face.

* * *

I realize I’m the only one with thoughts like these

-about the perfection of my face, I mean.

Forgive me. I’m just so used to it.

I’ve held its hand through many trials.

I stood by it when we were down and out,

when it was sick. I can’t see why

it won’t be with me to the grave. This daily care

for something other than myself has taught me love.

Love always finds the beloved to be beautiful,

an imperfection merely proof of being made by hand.

* * *

I know there are lovelier faces.

But if we had to spend the day apart,

me on business, say, –and if in the afternoon

I happened to get in a subway car,

and see my face already standing there,

her back toward me,

hanging on a strap and squinting at the ads

for birth control (a father with six little boys

laughing around his feet and he’s saying,

“Their mother says they’re too much for her,

* * *

“what about me!” I see this ad and fume.

No wonder children grow up in a rage,

“Don’t those people know that we are

the born light of the whole world,

the glory of its bounce and beam,

the haystack of its rise and fall,

the tender stems that buck the stream and carry

the eggs on to the next village?

Have they forgotten that? Yet they complain.

Those peoples. Always thinking me me me!”)

* * *

Anyway –if I saw her, my face, standing there,

reading this wicked ad,

swaying in the roar and buck

and stopping at Canal,

and she was tired, say, and started gazing down,

and say I noticed, near her, the youngest

and most loveliest of face, the freshest

skin a puppy ever licked,

the bluest eyes the stars fell in,

the straightest nose, the curvest lips,

* * *

and hair to make an ordinary 99 cent comb

tremble so with pride

it would snap in two from plastic rapture,

–if I saw her next to her,

well, it’s easy to see how I’d feel.

It’s only my own dear face,

come upon, like that, unexpectedly, only it

would make my heart rise up like bread

and yearn to see that she be well

and safe forever. That younger face?

* * *

Youth has no chance against age,

not when love’s involved;

youth seems kind of silly, hopeful,

one wishes it well and admires.

Perfection then, this face, with of course

the one exception, the one

coarse bristle I can feel. Perhaps I could ask

my daughter to pluck it out.

But no. The whole chin is soft with hair.

A meadow to remind me of some few years ago.

* * *

I remember the way I used to feel

sitting in a field,

waiting for him, feeling the soft grass

like this –along my cheek and calf.

Now that I think of it, there were those

who thought that I was kind of silly,

hopeful. I know they wished me well.

It would be nice to say hello someday.

I wouldn’t ask my daughter anyway.

She’s getting blind like me.