Friday, February 10, 2006
The finest of all finery was laid upon my back.
My body like Adonis, my limbs were lithe and strong;
I revelled in each breath I took–'til Old Joe came along.
He never was invited, but some days he just dropped 'round,
Sans courtesy of phone or pen, his stories to expound.
He long regaled enticing tales: of lands that I would see,
Of green bedecked Italian hills, of sunlit Tuscany;
Of brooding glacial mountains, rushing down to alpine vales,
Or broad and blue horizon lines festooned with snowy sails,
Of buffaloes that snort and stamp on rolling western plains
And elephants that haul the teak through steamy jungle rains.
And then he spoke at fulsome length of deeds I yet would do,
What greater things I would achieve before my life was through;
"Let petty preconceptions no man's rightful dreams confine–
Why settle for a measure of just half of what is thine?"
He brought me gifts to add to those already in my store,
And when I weakly did refuse he simply brought me more.
His flattery and presents did my better sense cajole;
I came to crave these treasures, and his stories swallowed whole.
My longing to believe his tales my fears a while allayed,
But day by day suspicion grew I might have been betrayed.
The warnings, oh so gradual, were trifling things at first;
But by the time it dawned on me, my guest had done his worst.
A sideward glance of Old Joe's eye, and half my strength was gone;
My clothes now sadly draped the withered frame they hung upon.
And furrows came to mark my skin, as limping marked my gait,
And aching curvatures replaced a spine once ramrod straight.
He touched my shoulder lightly then, and straightway there was pain–
"Don't worry friend," he reassured–then touched me once again:
A dizziness upon me fell while Old Joe softly purred–
I glanced up at the hour and saw the spinning hands were blurred–
"I fear you now have not the time those dreams of yours to chase,
So I'll abide here by your side and help you to erase
The mem'ries of those things you sought and those for which you yearned,
And all you had before I came–to see what you have learned."
"When did I make this bargain foul, how could you so ordain
That I must trade for dreams and wealth, infirmity and pain?
You talked of plans and journeys grand, of diamonds and gold,
Of travel and adventure–but I'm only getting old."
Old Joe then smiled his crooked smile and sideways glanced at me:
"Just so it has been ever thus and ever thus must be:
I visit all who live so long, to all there comes the day
When what I grant unearned in youth, with age I take away."
© 2005 Jeffrey Hull