Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Old Then Young

First young then old, there's no escape from that
you say, but from the vantage point of age,
when actors are about to leave the stage
without applause, a life that's fallen flat
cries out for yet another curtain call
before some fatal pratfall ends it all.

Do you remember that first Christmas tree?
when mother held her darling up to see
the candles and the tinsel finery,
in days before the blitz when they felt free
to laugh at tyrants strutting through the streets,
and we not old enough for boiled sweets.

Running on the lawn, imperfect cartwheels,
forward rolls, twirling round fast and falling
down, the world is spinning your head reeling
from vertigo, remember how that feels?
Probably not, but such past memories
await their place in your untold stories.

When puberty set in and warned the host
the seething body not the mind is king,
chemical bonding was the only thing
that satisfied the growing child the most.
This natural imperative was blocked
by grimy hypocrites who said, "we're shocked".

Our young, ambitious thoughts and acts prevailed:
exactly what direction they should take
was unclear, except to those on the make
whose parents, without pity, never failed
to force upon their kind the proper mould
that made their children prematurely old.

For the rest, unguided by convention,
wandering off the well worn tracks, among
woods and thorny thickets of right and wrong,
the quest began, to challenge and question
every impediment to the rampant growth
of those glad branches of our gorgeous youth.

When joy was safely circumscribed, marriage
proved how right the circular argument
was, that repressed joy and youth's prurient
but delightful urges that fend off age:
all that energy must be used for work
by bovine labourer or sheepish clerk.

The remedy for scarcity was work
but the urgent need for that ceaseless toil
was rarely questioned as we tilled the soil
or balanced those ledgers we'd rather shirk.
Work minus sleep left little time for aught
but careless merriment or futile thought.

Under grim flags of red or striped with blue
the state guides and enforces all it can
the fate of the average man or woman
being most determined by what others do.
When the time came and progeny popped out
It was all over bar that painful shout.

The bitter conjunction of nature's plan,
and the machinations of devious minds,
bent on exploiting toilers of all kinds,
mapped out the concourse of the race we ran.
In middle age prosperity peeped out,
but soon retreated at the first redoubt.

The cycle of generation came round,
and what we received so ungratefully
we spitefully passed to our progeny,
who, we must hope,  became less tightly bound
to the economic merry-go-round
that we rode lightly to our dying ground.

Old then young was, perhaps, our final hope,
invented by ageing psychiatrists
who secretly hankered for loving trysts
with pubescent patients who could not cope
with life's bewildering and cruel schemes
that, like ours, end as unsatisfied dreams.

With all the hunting and gathering done,
tending the flickering fires of life's lost loves
is slight recompense for the fateful moves
that led to losing games we should have won. 
Now our instruments of love lie broken
hope remains that wisdom's worm has woken.

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