19 September, 2017

A Freshly Scribbled Personal Poem with Nowhere Else to Go

"When I Was Young…"

The words slipped out before their import struck.
Further utterance obstructed, I clutched my face and slumped.
A low groan deeper than any half-assed laugh
Rose as camouflage.

There it is, I thought, cradling my skull.
Embodied gray in one point five kilograms,
Almost four decades a little more tattered
By every peek, reconfigured subtly by the act of reference.

Mutti, did you really used to call me Kleiner Mann,
Or was it someone else who aged me prematurely?
To a lover, once, who declared that mine
Was an old soul, it's true I offered a bag of prunes.

The boy with his slippers and robe, and his
Antiquarian collection of fossils and rocks,
Used to shred bread for ducks at the park.
He had in mind a future as an Egyptologist.

In mummification the brain was the first thing to go
Because ancient Egyptians believed it served no purpose.
Other organs were preserved in jars for the soul's journey.
Anubis, jackal-headed assayist, weighed one's vital baggage.

Immortal at sixteen, I dressed and rimmed my eyes in black,
I kept, as a pet, a rat. Rattus rattus was once deified,
Symbolic to the Egyptians as representing wise judgment and,
Further reading in adulthood reveals, also utter destruction.

* * * * *

The seed from which this poem grew was a conversation I had, sitting at the Old-Man Table. The topic that day is irrelevant. What matters is that I began a sentence with the four words that became this poem's title. There was no turning back; once you acknowledge that you're no longer young, it's all downhill. And so this poetic tumble through weedy memory, flowery patches of erstwhile interests, and past-life brambles, ending in the discovery, at the bottom, of a happenstantial connection that won't completely make sense unless you understand how I was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Predicting the future is largely impossible, but scouring the past for signs of a now-inevitable present can be all too tempting. There is nothing to stem our sense that we're onto the true reasons for everything that came to pass. As if we humans need something else to think we've got all figured out!

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