This semi-offensive challenge comes from my brother Sam. His challenge is to write about the first time I felt old. Now...this doesn't sound like a huge challenge in some ways. On the other hand, I recently turned 30, so he's probably suggesting that I should feel old. So that is a pretty serious challenge -- "Feel old, Ivy! And write a sad poem about it." But the thing is, I've always wanted to be old. I spent most of my early years pretending to be an adult and trying to convince other kids not to pick their noses. I still relish moments when I feel old and wise, and I dread feeling small and young again. I wrote this poem with all that in mind. Sam also hates poetry that reads like a diary entry, so I figured I'd throw a little of that in, too.
When I was three and setting tables
for my bears, my heart
wasn't in it, was above
the trees, in the white pulse
of new songs and Birmingham
in the distance, the blinking buildings.
Youth is a long clearing
of the throat before you begin
to love the city you were born in,
kid. The oldest and wisest man
I work with (on the 19th floor
of one bright building) says
I remind him of Lauren Bacall
all shoulder pads and haughtiness.
Like her, I want to be heavy
as a cigarette.
She was seventeen in her first role,
and the director taught her to act old,
talk deep and slow. It's taken me years
to say to hell with directors.
I feel old for the first time every time
I turn away from the sky
and remember my dinner companions,
realize once again that the bears
I used to love are only men
I don't recognize anymore.
The remedy for age is time,
and as I outgrow my soft
and bloodless friends,
as I outgrow my own successive skins
between this life and the next,
I insist on being older
than the songs I teach myself.
Older siblings are so smug about being old--they could invite you to their bear parties, but instead you get left out in the cold. However, I will say, that this is much better than your diary entries used to be (having secretly read them many times). Can younger siblings ever feel old?