Vita Brevis

Five and twenty, say the years
portioned to me.
Youth, they say; we have seen much more than you,
so why fear dimming sight? You have known it
since age 9.
Spectacles shrink those lines
beginning to crowd your lashes.
You are still attractive. Young.
Yet I feel the years lap against me, touch me,
though I look better now than at 16.
—or is it maturity, sharpening appreciation of what remains?
Self-comfort, finally. Imperfect angles swallowed up in work, and health
and matron-esque beginnings—
Yes—my form hints “children.”
These years say: children?
You are a child yourself,
laughing,
though burdened with more than children would leave you room for.
Five and twenty says: freedom is knowing we can pack our bags
and hop into the nearest jet
to Tokyo or Prague or Dakar.
Freedom is academic excellence.
Which, by the way, is nowhere in your vicinity…
yet…
though it may be waiting, if you sweat enough luck into your life.

Five and twenty. Soon, it will be thirty. The years say: we expect more now.
A nicer couch. Nicer plates. More plates. Matching wine glasses.
This thrift store stuff is for college students, broke and eating ramen.
But we can’t pay for this by pursuit of academic excellence. We need
more.
We are hungry for Russian fungal delicacies,
with immune boosters and caffeine
for the exhaustion of long nights.

The years say: we want sleep. This is not freedom.
These voices in my head, they tire me.
Freedom is not desperation for status;
it is the deep breaths one takes in fresh air.
Give me nothing but a pair of good boots and the mountains.

Until my knees fail me.

Then I will need a hand to help steady my pained footsteps.
Freedom is in the grip
and the smile of love.

The years say: love.
Is love waking next to someone and seeing him still charitably
enough to say “I love you. I see your crows-feet
(I can’t see mine)
and I taste your mortality. You are a withering sack
of meat and bone.
But there is more to you, too,
lest we forget” ?

The years are cynical. They ask this with derision in their voice.
But even they cannot help but sound hopeful.
For all is vanity,
but this.

5 thoughts on “Vita Brevis

  1. I’d recommend you read Swinburne’s “Before the Beginning of Years.” A nice example of the same “Vanitas Vanitatum” note you’ve touched upon here, albeit in a more nihilistic tone of voice.

    Sample:

    “He weaves and is clothed with derision/ Sows, but he shall not reap/ His life is a watch or a vision/ Between a sleep and a sleep.”

    T

  2. Maybe I would trade my age for five and twenty PROVIDED that I could keep my years of experience and maturity. But the notion is paradoxical, is it not? Show me one with experience and maturity and I will show you one who has been alive for awhile. Thus, maturity may be lacking in the one who attempts the impossible feat of perpetual youth.

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