Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Men at Forty

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practises tying
His father's tie there in secret

And the face of the father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

I recently found this poem by Donald Justice. Although I am 16 years older than the specified age I can say it is still like that - only more so. You are no longer on the landing but a few more steps up.

Every time when I get up in the morning I look in the mirror and I see my fathers face. He was only eight years older than my current age when he died and my last memories of his face mean the similarity is quite close. Every time when I get up in the morning.

My father was an active man but he never allowed himself to spend that activity in pure recreation. He was always landscaping the garden or refurbishing the house - building and improving. That was until he retired when he felt he had the time to play golf as well.

Me I spend my activity in running or cycling, with no objective beyond the sensation of the moment. I look round at all the jobs that need doing and how I could have made the house better, if only I had been more like my dad. But that is not the way it is - I have made different choices.

I run and for me that gently puts a foot in one of those closing doors and keeps it ajar.


b-z said...


womble said...

That man at forty sounds lovely. Where do I find him?


beanz said...


D0ug1efresh said...

I'm having a hard time pin-pointing the tone being conveyed by Justice. I guess it could be viewed different ways depending on your pov. I am younger and this poem comes off, to me, as slightly depressing. However, I could see how one could see this as being happily nostalgic. My favorite stanza is the second one; "At rest on a stair landing/They feel it moving/Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,/Though the swell is gentle." This stanza is great at articulating the way life moves on but is barely, if at all, felt, and the way you can begin to feel it moving more and more the older you get. I'm 22, not forty, but switch a few nouns and this could be "Men at Twenty-Two." Nice poem, it resonated with me.