It’s not that the old are wise
But that we thirst for the wisdom

we had at twenty
when we understood everything

when our brains bubbled
with tingling insights

percolating up from
our brilliant genitals

when our music rang like a global siege
shooting down all the lies in the world

oh then we knew the truth
then we sparkled like mica in granite

and now we stand on the shore
of an ocean that rises and rises
but is too salt to drink

Copyright © 2018 by Alicia Ostriker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The thirsting described in this poem comes from the experience of aging. With age comes physical depletion but also, at times, mental and spiritual depletion. When we were young we thought we could change the world; we were self-confident to the point of arrogance. And now, even if we know that self-confidence was illusory, we still yearn for it—and the world still needs changing.”
—Alicia Ostriker