Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It’s my time to sit with old men

by Michael Mark

I have a violent urge to piss on the young.

I need a session with the wrinkled.
That stalwart crowd dozing
on scarred benches and lawn chairs.

Bald and taking on all cancers.

Youth’s neon vitality and untrained
hopefulness is so frustrating.
Too sweet, ech!
Nothing like the hard-earned optimism
from the decayed breath of a busted up geezer.
“It will work out, one way or the other” is rooted in God’s truth!
As opposed to the antiseptic helium, “It’s all good, man.”

These young people’s lack of perspective -
of what is in the dirt, what makes them -
sucks the past right out of me.

I hate them not for their sun-shining muscles
or their liquid grace.
It’s the way they don’t see -
the blind guy who walks all over
the neighborhood, singing, has better vision.

I want to listen to the creaks and gasps
of worn down bones
and study stubborn bruises that have taken over
entire legs and backs and spread under
skin so thin you can see through
to the honesty.

What’s left to say? Nothing.
The old ones heard it all.
But if you want to talk, they’ll try.
And if they can’t pick up your mumbles
they say “speak up” or “talk slower,”
or make up what you said
which is smarter than what
you said.

What’s with these kids walking around with
those headsets in their ears –
missing every piece of the lyrical poetry
in the litany of ailments and utter failure of
too expensive medications, and near lethal

Youth stinks because it has no stink.
It’s odorless as 3 dollar bottled water.
Smells are important – look how dogs know each other.
We are animals and the old farts on the benches
who never have known floss
live their dying animal nature every day.

If they need me to peel back their bandages
to report on post-surgery progress,
I will be their witness.
I will see them the way they are,
the shape they are in -
to Hell with weepy nostalgia.
I’ll tell ‘em, “This is how it is kiddo.”
And they’ll put their skeleton hands on my face
and tell me I’m a good boy, not the best,
because their Harold, their Alex, their Shlomo is the best.

These young people are not even people.
A person has to go through more anguish
than a driver’s test to matter.
In my opinion, they should not be counted in a census -
not as a full human being,
a tad-person, ok.

They may, if they work very hard,
very, very hard and get up after being knocked down
a couple million times,
they may get their turn at being old.
But age is not a given.
It is struggled for.
With will, cunning, flexibility and drunk luck.

They say motherhood is the hardest job –
it may be the most important.
But hardest belongs to the old ones.
Bending over holds incalculable consequences,
rising and falling with each vertebra compressed
by every decade, every year and every fall, real or imagined.

And there’s no way around it -
you got to bend.
Are you not going to pick up that nickel
on the sidewalk?
You have no choice.
And when pain, falling, being forgotten,
steps up in front of an old man
he must summon his guts and take down a breath,
much as he can get in his leaky lungs,
and fight, damn it, fight his own failing body and gravity,
and the knowledge that this could be it, over, final.

But it’s five cents.
And it wasn’t that long ago
that would buy dinner for his family.

That’s why I’m going to where “I remember” outnumbers “I will.”
Where poorly healing scars tell more vivid truths than tattoos
and hearts are more tender and bigger –
due to disease and loving more.

These are people who respect a stop sign.
And they speak at a pace where you can wander
around in their stories,
while they take regular pauses to relocate their train of thought.

These are not victims – they’re warriors
who time could not beat.
Dazed from living.
Determined to get more of whatever
there is to get.
After a nice nap.

Ok, I’m done now.
Zipped up.
Hands washed with soap.
Just like my old man taught me.


  1. I see me, an aging woman, in much of this beautifully expressed observation. I see more of my mom.
    Maybe my favorite of all things I've read of yours, Michael.

    1. Thank you Jo. I see such value in our older people.

  2. I am the old man (woman) you are writing about. Well said, Michael.