Lines on the Poet's Turning Forty
By Ian Frazier
And so, at last, I am turning forty,
In just a couple of days.
The big four-oh.
Yes, that is soon to be my age.
(And not fifty-eight. No way. That Wikipedia is a bunch of liars.)
Nope, not any other age, just forty.
What other age could someone born in 1969 (and not 1951)
(And please do not listen to my ex-wife, that sad, bitter woman in her late fifties.)
What does it feel like, old bones?
Yes, I have lost a step or two in the hundred-metre dash.
I accept these changes.
But if a guy says in a published poem that he is forty,
As I am doing here,
It's obvious that must be the age that he is,
Cattail down blows from the swamp like smoke,
Ice bares its teeth on the surface of the mud puddles.
It is fall—but not for me in any metaphorical sense,
Because forty, while not technically all that young, is hardly like "the autumn of life" or anything;
And also because Natalie Portman, the famous actress,
Is in love with me. And why not?
After all, there is not that much difference, age-wise,
Between a person who I guess is in her mid-to-late twenties
And a person who is only just turning forty,
You walk across the room carrying a bouquet of phlox in your hand
("You" being Natalie Portman, the famous actress)
As a present for me on my upcoming fortieth birthday.
Come sit beside me, my dear,
And I will tell you about my previous thirty-nine,
Except for the year when I was in sixth grade,
Which is a total blank.
I do remember fifth grade, when we had Mrs. Erwin,
And seventh grade, when we moved to the new junior-high building;
But when I try to remember sixth—nothing.
Let us not mourn what is lost.
Sixth grade was probably not that great.
Now, and on into the serious years that lie ahead,
You and I will have each other.
An alert reader may point out
That we did not move to the new junior-high building during the 1981-82 school year
(As would fit with my being in seventh grade and having been born in 1969)
But eighteen years earlier, in the school year of 1963-64.
This is baloney!
Whoever says such statements is wrong.
I think that when it comes to the details of my own life
My own word should be trusted over that of some random reader,
Unfortunately, because of this business
About when we did or didn't move to the new junior-high building,
Natalie Portman's suspicions somehow were raised,
And she had a completely unnecessary "background check" run on me,
And then left me for Shia LaBeouf,
Who is hot right now.
This poem is becoming a disaster.
It happens sometimes—
I get into a poem, and the thing goes haywire,
And I don't know how to get out.
According to some nitpicker at the Ohio Department of Education,
Mrs. Roberta Erwin retired and left teaching entirely in 1967,
Two years before my birth.
Thus, the argument goes,
She could not have taught me fifth grade,
As I claimed in Canto III.
Look, I am turning forty, all right?
Let's just leave it at that.
Critics and people in the media who would ruin a celebration with this kind of "gotcha" behavior make me sick.
If you still doubt me,
Please be assured that this magazine has a rigorous policy of fact checking,
And all the information in this poem has been checked,
And directly verified with me.
Well, it's going to be great being forty.
I am looking forward to it.
There are plenty of other beautiful actresses around;
I may also try out for the forty-and-over division
On the National Professional Rodeo Association tour.
Recently someone asked me if I remembered when the name
Of Idlewild Airport in New York City
Was changed to J.F.K. International.
"Of course not," I replied.
"That was long before my time.
Back then I had not even been born."
And one more from The New Yorker. It regularly surprises me that they can publish a poem as wonderful as the one I posted yesterday and as mediocre as this one in the same issue.
The major event of my day was Adam's Bar Mitzvah rehearsal, which you are surely even more sick of reading about than I am of talking about. So I wrote up a bunch of stuff about sexual politics on Slings & Arrows to post, but then I remembered that I really should wait till I've seen the third season before venturing an opinion, and that I really don't want to venture an opinion anyway about something fannish that I really, really like because I always end up sorry when I do that, even when it's unmitigated delight. So -- oh, yes, I AM grumpy again, why do you ask! -- I shall simply post photos of caterpillars, which are happily eating away at the leaves in our neighborhood and it's a good thing that they're so cute.
Here, for instance, are just two of the nine that were crawling above our front door when Adam got home from school Wednesday.
He and his friend were very happy to rescue caterpillars from the sidewalk and street.
It is not known how the caterpillars felt about being rescued, but at least they weren't put in the dreaded Plastic Bug Container.
Adam and his friends are very adept at juggling multiple caterpillars at once.
Though summer is approaching rapidly, the colors are still pretty fantastic on the bushes.
Adam's friend showed off his juggling in front of the neighbor's very pretty azaleas.
Here is one more picture of a caterpillar crawling on the bricks of my house.
Speaking of Adam, he is naturally delighted that the Penguins won and will advance in the playoffs, though the rest of my extended family were all rooting for the Caps and are sorry that they lost. (Daniel doesn't care.) In the evening after dinner and homework, we decided to watch The Da Vinci Code in anticipation of Angels & Demons -- a movie that is always more engrossing and just plain better than I expect it to be considering how many times I've seen it and how much of the book simply takes material I'd read in earlier books and plugs it into a fairly formulaic thriller. I adore Ian McKellen's performance and I could watch the scenes at the Louvre and in Temple Church endlessly.