Now I see it: a few years To play around while being Bossed around By the taller ones, the ones With the money And more muscle, however Tender or indifferent They might be at being Parents; then off to school And the years of struggle With authority while learning Violent gobs of things one didn't Want to know, with a few tender And tough teachers thrown in Who taught what one wanted And needed to know; then time To go out and make one's own Money (on the day or in The night-shift), playing around A little longer ("Seed-time," "Salad days") with some Young "discretionary income" Before procreation (which Brings one quickly, too quickly, Into play with some variation Of settling down); then, Most often for most, the despised Job (though some work their way Around this with work of real Delight, life's work, with the deepest Pleasures of mastery); then years Spent, forgotten, in the middle decades Of repair, creation, money Gathered and spent making the family Happen, as one's own children busily Work their way into and through The cycle themselves, Comic and tragic to see, with some Fine moments playing with them; Then, through no inherent virtue Of one's own, but only because The oldest ones are busy falling Off the edge of the planet, The years of governing, Of being the dreaded authority One's self; then the recognition (Often requiring a stiff drink) that it Will all soon be ending for one's self, But not before Alzheimer's comes For some, as Alzheimer's comes For my father-in-law now (who Has forgotten not only who Shakespeare is but that he taught Shakespeare for thirty years, And who sings and dances amidst The forgotten in the place To which he's been taken); then An ever-deepening sense of time And how the end might really happen, To really submit, bend, and go (Raging against that night is really An adolescent's idiot game). Time soon to take my place In the long line of my ancestors (Whose names I mostly never knew Or have recently forgotten) Who took their place, spirit poised In mature humility (or as jackasses Braying against the inevitable) Before me, having been moved By time through time, having done The time and their times. "Nearer my god to thee" I sing On the deck of my personal Titanic, An agnostic vessel in the mind. Born alone, die alone—and sad, though Vastly accompanied, to see The sadness in the loved ones To be left behind, and one more Moment of wondering what, If anything, comes next. . . Never to have been completely Certain what I was doing Alive, but having stayed aloft Amidst an almost sinister doubt. I say to my children Don't be afraid, be buoyed —In its void the world is always Falling apart, entropy its law —I tell them those who build And master are the ones invariably Merry: Give and take quarter, Create good meals within the slaughter, A place for repose and laughter In the consoling beds of being tender, I tell them now, my son, my daughter.
From The Executive Director of the Fallen World by Liam Rector, published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 2006 by Liam Rector. Reprinted by permission of the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.