by David E. Perry
I watch them
standing in line at the DMV.
I study them,
drinking their coffees at Starbucks
waiting for spouses at the doctor’s office,
walking their dogs,
picking up other peoples’ litter…
I’m fascinated by,
and a student of
these human souls
who struggle daily to adjust,
if only bit by bit,
to make some sort of uneasy truce
with their new, unwanted status.
How does one ever make peace
with the daunting fact that
one has become,
increasingly i r r e l e v a n t?
To a person,
each of these men and women I observe
used to be
much more important,
much better seen
and far less ignored,
back when they were younger.
It’s sad, really.
They understand so many amazing things,
having walked the path ahead of us,
having lived through extraordinary times
and gleaned their lessons.
They have survived movements
They have been pounded by wave after wave
of profound change
as it has crashed against the shorelines
of their once youthful hopes and expectations.
And they are still here,
contributing where they can,
smiling however they can manage it,
despite the fact that
unless they have money in their hands
no one seems to notice them much,
…or appears particularly interested
in what they might have to say.
Not any more.
Society nowadays hangs on
every vapid tweet
that some Kardashian girl thumb-types
on her diamond-encrusted iPhone
and makes bold headlines
out of leaked booby pictures
and wardrobe malfunctions,
but it has no questions
and no time
for the insights
of the workers and teachers,
and even leaders
that drove and shaped a previous generation’s
“Step aside, old man,” I hear,
or, “Excuse me lady.”
What some seem to mean and never quite say is this:
“Can’t you see I’ve got more important things on my mind,
and more important places to be?”
I see you…
on those days when you haven’t quite combed your hair
because really, who will care?
I see you as you sit there politely
sipping your coffee,
filling yet another idle hour
in yet another day
knowing that no one half your age will seek you out
to ask you what you think
about almost anything.
I see you wrestling
with this strange new invisibility
and I know that soon enough
you will be me. Or is it I, you?
I wonder how I’ll manage
as I become increasingly invisible.
I think you’re brave,
while you stoically wait your turn
again and again.
I think you’re beautiful,
even while you’re wishing you would be invited to contribute
more than some casual, polite commentary on how you’re feeling today.
Or whether you pooped,
…or took your pills.
I see you biting your lip and wishing your thoughts and opinions mattered
the way they once did,
even while swallowing your diminished pride in bitter little sips
as bravely and elegantly as you can manage,
all the while wondering,
“How did this happen?”
“When did I become irrelevant?”
“How did all those things I worked so hard to be good at
become so unimportant to the rest of the world?”
I see you.
And for whatever little that may be worth to you
I just needed to say it.
I am ever so grateful for who you are,
for your many, though sometimes invisible contributions
to this very world I live in with you.
You are exquisite.
You are wonderful.
And you absolutely deserve better.