“So Distinguished”

Twenty-six.
The very June of my physical powers
Such as they ever were
When the first appeared.
A single one, white and wiry
Standing alone at the hairline
As if waving a flag of surrender
From a follicle foxhole.

I lean toward the mirror for a closer look.
Surely a Liquid Paper accident.

By the wedding day
That cowardly bastard had recruited more traitors
Setting up permanent bases in each sideburn
And soon, the cleansing of the temples.

Well-meaning exclamations
By clearly shocked relatives
Of “so distinguished”
Little salved the sting
Of being forced to contemplate mortality prematurely
Or the buzzkill of abbreviated youth
The unseasonably early blizzard
Or other unfairnesses:
A brother whose stubborn chestnut locks
Mock thick and dark, belying his seniority still.

For a decade they marched on remorselessly
Multiplying like white rabbits in a plowed field
Creeping insidious gray wolf of age
Just for Men ads needling consciousness
Well-meaning questions from strangers
In public about my “grandchildren.”

Oh, there were victories
For the salted brethren on this journey:
Sean Connery’s title, however protested
Todd Martin’s matchpoint
Taylor Hicks an “idol”
Anderson Cooper’s snowy ascendance
But only moral victories,
Exceptions that proved the rule.

And do the changes of the head
Only distract one from the rest?
Mercifully drawing the eye
From worse news yet?

I stare at my feet.
They are someone else’s.
My heels are not crisscrossed with blue veins
Like an interstate highway map
Printed on crinkled wax paper.

My biobodysuit is not riddled
With unwanted badges of honor:
Scars, calluses, fissures, corner-rounding pounds
Hair where’er I stare, but nary a hair where I ne’er cared to be bare.

My skin is not a canvas
Upon which a cruel invisible graffiti artist
Tags a random addition each night
As if I were a passed-out frat boy
Markered up by drunken brothers?

And then there is the world.
Celebrities of my childhood now bent with age
The Fonz shilling for a mortgage company!
My cultural references too old even for thirtysomethings.
“Thirtysomething” reference too old for thirtysomethings.
Lawrence Welk Show more understandable.
Beloved bands that once played stadia
Now touring circuit of ever shrinking clubs
Young, unfamiliar faces,
Filling out their rhythm sections.

Online, I see cute girls
I knew in high school
No wait– those are their daughters!
Oh, sweet Lord, is this the cruelest cut?
To rob us not just of now but then?
That frosted matron in the background
Was that dance team hottie
That head cheerleader so out of my league
That prom queen, mortal after all.
Just as surely as they stare
Back through that portal
Searching in vain for me
Only to find a portly balding stranger
Surely the photo mistagged.

What can I say.
Play a rock-n-roll requiem for the Irish setter
Devoured by the great gray wolf
Who comes for all who pass enough of these seasons.

And one last thing, my heirs:
Do not pull the white hairs;
Not even the first,
That one you cursed
Be the rest jet black.
You’ll want that one back.

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