Justin: In the Feast of Being Able to. Amen.

Men at Forty

In this, my 40th year of life, I came across a familiar poem in one of my old college writing anthologies. The connection is obvious, but it goes further. I was privileged to hear and to meet Donald Justice at a poetry reading in 1992.

After the reading, people were approaching him for autographs with copies of his books. I waited until the crowed thinned, then approached him and extended to him a clean, white baseball, and a Sharpie.

The older gentleman took the ball in his right hand and gripped it fully. “Oh my goodness,” he said softly, rolling his fingers around the ball. “I haven’t held one of these in years.” The serious demeanor of a legendary poet in his element left him for a boyish smile. He shook it a couple of times to feel its weight. As if maybe a few shakes might coax it to sing to him some old song of days passed. “I’d be happy to sign this.”

And he did.

Men at Forty
by Donald Justice

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 practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that 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 drop-by the old divecorps site from time to time – you have a real knack for writing.

    This is a wonderful poem. Makes me wish we were back in the Kralicek building.

  • I turned 40 about a week ago. It’s good to read this poem again.

    Still working at Goodyear?

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