I wrote this poem last July, shortly after the first lockdown began to open up. The acting college where I had been teaching voice part time prior to lockdown invited me to come back into the studio to teach, and I didn't consider it safe—for myself, or for the students—so I declined. It occurred to me that I would almost certainly never be offered such work again. I had been extremely lucky to have kept on teaching at the tertiary level for as long as I had, well into my 70s.
Thoughts on ageing weren't new to me. But this seemed more pressing, especially with all the understanding by that stage that anyone over 80 was especially vulnerable to Covid-19. When 80 is only 4 years away, and those years are accelerating by faster than a Formula 1 car driven by Jensen Button, it feels like tomorrow.
Hence this poem.
It was published in October 2020 as part of the collection "Sunsets & Kites", which is available from Amazon online.
Enjoy! And stay safe.
Image courtesy @gsultangeorge
AM I OLD YET?
Coz I am starting to think
I’ve heard everything there is to hear
That I might already know
Everything that there is to know.
I don’t mean that literally, of course.
I’m not that stupid.
I know enough to know that
There is always more to know
I just mean there is nothing on the radio
Or on the tv
That I haven’t heard before.
Am I old yet? Because
I don’t fear death. I fear pain.
And yet I experience pain all the time.
I fear that the pain will get worse
Till I cannot bear it.
And yet, each time it increases, I bear it.
And if I make it to 96
And you want to acknowledge
Any achievements I may have managed
Do not include being 96
Among my achievements.
Am I old yet?
I feel a little bit lost.
But then I wonder
Is that even a thing?
What does it mean to be a ‘little bit lost’?
Is it like being a little bit pregnant?
Or a little bit defrosted?
Am I old yet? I hear myself
Saying things my mother only started saying
When she was definitely old in my eyes.
Like “No! I don’t want a new phone
With more computing power than a spaceship."
I don't want or need a cooker that talks to me
Or a washing machine that talks to the fridge.
I don’t want to watch films or read books
About horrible people doing
Horrible things to each other
No matter how well made
Or well written they are.
Why would you?
Am I old yet?
Because I still have questions.
Such as: where does infinity start?
Where does it go?
How can you see the shadow of something
That cannot, itself, be seen?
Is there another life form on this planet
Quite as self-destructive as humanity?
Am I old yet?
My friends rush to reassure me that I’m not.
They are kind. I suspect they are afraid
That if I am old, they either are
Or soon will be, old too.
But I no longer dread discovering that I am old.
There is no law that says my ‘old’
Will be the same
As my mother’s. Or yours.
Any more than there was a law that said
My ‘young’ was the right
Or the wrong kind of ‘young’.
Drifting between the event horizon
And the singularity
My body is a space ship, and
There is an end to the universe. It is
Out there, somewhere outside of
Me. And also inside of me.
And that, I think
Is probably, possibly
How old I am.
(c) Flloyd Kennedy, 2020