Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When we are young

When we are young, we chase after tomorrow,
like drooling dogs who catch a far-off pitch
and hunt it down, through briars, maze and ditch—
down to the gameless grounds of cold regret
where old men brood in self-creating sorrow,
stroking their lost potential like a pet.
All that they thought were gifts are just a borrow;
they see the prize but can no longer buy it,
their doggéd lives made paltry and defrauded
of promise by the promise of repletion
which they pursued, bedevilled and be-godded
by deeds and signs, to dubious completion—
     inheriting not power, peace and quiet
     but just the ruins of their parents' riot.

When we are young, we hear the words of life,
their meaning meant for us and us alone
like sleeping beauties meant to be a wife—
like street signs in the Land of Do-As-You-Please
where every road ends with a thrill or a throne
and not the taunting of a final tease
of love unending, for the aim is known
and sleep brings only dreams of love and shame,
or the dark nightmare of the one-and-only
that leads down to the hell of might-have-been
where we will wake, more castaway than lonely,
needing to find a devil for our sin,
     looking for something that can take the blame
     for why we never lived up to our name.

When we are young, we translate all we hear—
the names of streets, the words behind deep glances—
into a language free of loss and fear
and full of something more like verbal chances
than definitions, flexible to nudge,
and not a sentence spoken by a judge.
Everything has ten meanings, and we play
as if the winning move is always near
and always will be, like a hunting dog
who tracks our kill and never runs away
until one day it leaves us in a fog
where words fail us, and we end the hard day
     humming the tune of a forgotten song,
     sitting and drinking, wondering what went wrong.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

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