At Sixty-Five

It was all so different than he expected.
For years he’d been agnostic; now he meditated.
For years he’d dreamed of being an artist living abroad;
now he reread Baudelaire, Emerson, Bishop.
He’d never considered marriage . . .
Still, a force through green did fuse.
Yes, he wore his pants looser.
No, he didn’t do crosswords in bed.
No, he didn’t file for Social Security.
Yes, he danced alone in the bathroom mirror,
since younger men expected generosity.
Long ago, his thesis had been described as promising,
“with psychological heat and the consuming
will of nature.” Now he thought, “This then is all.”

On the rooftop, in pale flickering moonlight,
he pondered the annihilated earth.
At the pond, half-a-mile across was not
too far to swim because he seemed to be
going toward something. Yes, the love impulse
had frequently revealed itself in terms of conflict;
but this was an old sound, an austere element.
Yes, he’d been no angel and so what . . .
Yes, tiny moths emerged from the hall closet.
Yes, the odor of kombucha made him sick.
Yes, he lay for hours pondering the treetops,
the matriarchal clouds, the moon.
Though his spleen collected melancholy trophies,
his imagination was not impeded.

Copyright © 2022 by Henri Cole. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 5, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.