On Reaching Forty in a Week

In a week I will be forty. If my mother’s right
it’s time to get my act together and find more delight
in doing what needs to be done to build something to show
for two score spent in dissipation watching the grass grow.

For forty years I’ve wandered, aimless (if you read my press)
and how I managed to survive is anybody’s guess;
but here I am an older man with little put aside
for rainy days and the malaise built up like muck inside.

And even though my mother (bless her and her dreams for me)
is likely to deny it or at best, just disagree,
the course for me is still unset, with mountains still to climb,
and wild paths yet to ramble left untraveled all this time.

I could have gone a different route, sought greater wealth and fame,
but had I come another path I would not be the same.
The stars are not much different in the sky as they were then;
they can be used to form new paths, not just trace might have beens.

And I have what I want, right now, though some would call it less
that what it should be. I seek out a greater happiness.
If I should last for forty more, undoubtedly, I’ll find
that my boat will at last reach shore — just where, I do not mind.

For ports and inns and treasure troves on wild, uncharted lands,
I’m sure will fade from memory like dry dust in my hands.
It’s only knowing who you are that makes a difference;
and taking forty years to learn that through experience

instead of scanning manuals, taking courses, reading signs,
has built a life worth living. And the best part? It is mine.
So forty comes and forty goes — it seems a lot of days.
All that was bad was my own fault, for good, I must give praise

to forces I’ve just glimpsed upon this often lonely trail,
that oft appear as wisps of smoke not some great holy grail.
I hope just this: the time to come, what’s left to me this round,
won’t seem like unimportant drivel, or just mumbled sound.

But forty’s just a number; it does not mean all that much:
some measure of maturity to lean on, like a crutch,
or use to force my issues down some young and eager throats
who’ve just started their seeking and still think they must take notes.

So I will taste of forty (a respectable old port)
and try to make the next four decades of a different sort.
I couldn’t do the same again, so what’s the point to try?
I’ll take each new day as it comes, and get there, by and by.

26 DEC 2004

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