A Poem.

Lines on Retirement, after Reading Lear

by David Wright

for Richard Pacholski


Avoid storms. And retirement parties.

You can’t trust the sweetnesses your friends will

offer, when they really want your office,

which they’ll redecorate. Beware the still

untested pension plan. Keep your keys. Ask

for more troops than you think you’ll need. Listen

more to fools and less to colleagues. Love your

youngest child the most, regardless. Back to

storms: dress warm, take a friend, don’t eat the grass,

don’t stand near tall trees, and keep the yelling

down—the winds won’t listen, and no one will

see you in the dark. It’s too hard to hear

you over all the thunder. But you’re not

Lear, except that we can’t stop you from what

you’ve planned to do. In the end, no one leaves

the stage in character—we never see

the feather, the mirror held to our lips.

So don’t wait for skies to crack with sun. Feel

the storm’s sweet sting invade you to the skin,

the strange, sore comforts of the wind. Embrace

your children’s ragged praise and that of friends.

Go ahead, take it off, take it all off.

Run naked into tempests. Weave flowers

into your hair. Bellow at cataracts.

If you dare, scream at the gods. Babble as

if you thought words could save. Drink rain like cold

beer. So much better than making theories.

We’d all come with you, laughing, if we could.


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