Long

On Not Going Gentle

Old_age_pensioner_in_Surry_Hills_alley_with_stick,_Aug_1949

You Are Old, Father William (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And the money’s become very tight;
And yet you’ll spend anything not to be dead —
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I figured that old folks should die;
But now that I’m perfectly sure that I’m one,
I do not see a good reason why.”

“You are old,” said the son, “as I mentioned before.
So consider your grandson’s position,
Since the money that keeps you away from death’s door
Could be used for his college tuition.”

“I am old,” Father William replied in a yell,
“But I’ve not taken leave of my wits!
I should croak so young Willie can go to Cornell?
Be off, or I’ll blow you to bits!”

 

The Fat Ladies Sing

We revel in our candy bars
And cookies, cake, and pie.
That vegetables taste wonderful
Is one humongous lie.

But now we face admonishment.
Our size sets off a fuss.
The war against obesity
Includes a war on us.

We know our girth is plentiful,
But listen to our voice.
When thinking of our corpulence,
Why can’t you be pro-choice?

 

Song of a Future Age

Children of the present age,
Reading this indignant page,
Know that in a former time,
Longer life was thought a crime.

“Elders needing doctors’ care
Cost us more than we can spare.
Elders who retain their health
Rob the young of jobs and wealth.
Fourscore years are all you need.
Seeking more reveals your greed.
Live your numbered years with zest.
Then go sweetly to your rest.”

So the pundits used to say
Till we reached a better day.
Children, how our lifespans grew:
I’m 300 — you’ll be too.

 

A Narrow Fellow in the Glass

A narrow fellow in the glass
Is what I yearn to see —
But much I must forgo, alas
To make a slimmer me —

No cookies, brownies, cake, or pie —
I may become unstrung.
The pleasure healthful foods supply
Is zero at the tongue

 

Mina Says No to Hospice

I entered the world with a blast:
Triumphant and ever so loud.
The room was engulfed by my cries.
My mother was weary but proud.

And now, although 90 and failing,
I still want to live as I am.
They said I came in like a lion —
I’ll never go out like a lamb.

 

Lenore in the Sunlight

I wake at dawn and face the sun,
Whose rays caress my head.
I glory in the morning light
Though I can’t leave my bed.

My will is strong, my body weak.
Please help me stay alive.
It’s much too soon for me to die;
I’m only ninety-five.

 

The Waist Is Larger than the Belt

The waist is larger than the belt —
For put them side by side —
The one the other will exceed
With ease — it cannot hide —

The foot is wider than the shoe —
For try them inch by inch —
The one the other won’t fit in —
Without a mighty pinch —

The mouth is greater than the will —
For show them something sweet —
The one the other will defy —
And in the end defeat —

 


Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a writer, poet, and professor of philosophy at Brown University. She writes a monthly column for The Providence Journal. You Are Old, Father William and The Fat Ladies Sing first appeared in The Los Angeles Times; Song of a Future Age first appeared in Blake House; Mina Says No to Hospice and Lenore in the Sunlight first appeared in The Providence Journal; A Narrow Fellow in the Glass and The Waist Is Larger than the Belt first appeared in The Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin.