Twenty years ago, an elderly member of the Toronto Arts and Letters Club asked me if I still wrote poetry. “Of course!” I blurted, startled by her question. With aging, I know better.
This past week, one difficulty in growing older was captured on The League of Canadian Poets’ Poetry Pause in Marvyne Jenoff’s delightful “Song Without Nouns”, https://poets.ca/song-without-nouns-by-marvyne-jenoff/. Her poem begins:
Just when we comfortably know it all
nouns leave us.
It would be nice to keep a few—forest, bird—
but no, whenever they please, nouns flee us.
Especially for a poet, these sharp gaps are a cruel surprise, as lamented in my own “Listening to the Muse”:
From the first sounds, a sweet calm
cools my brow, then flows
into neck muscles and down.
Under my skin
through arms unstiffening
vowels and consonants run
silver, glistening over bone
to fingers poised above the desk.
How do the words form?
I know only, inside my skull
they bob from ear to ear
and trying to scoop them up
the moment each appears,
nine times out of ten
my neurons become